By Jean Lotus
Attorneys for a Forest Park Police Department intern, who filed a federal lawsuit alleging sexual assault by a Forest Park detective, has filed a response to the village's motion to dismiss.
Loevy & Loevy, Chicago attorneys for "Jane Doe," who was 19 at the time of the allegations, disputed the village's assertion that Detective Young Lee was not on duty and was not in a supervisory role over Doe when Lee accompanied her to a pub in Berwyn March 30, 2011, which she initially believed to be an "alcohol sting."
Crucial to Doe's Title VII claim against the Village of Forest Park are whether Doe was an employee of the village and whether Lee was in a supervisory role over Doe, her attorneys said.
According to Doe's response brief, she was an employee of the village because she had entered into an arrangement with Lt. Steven Weiler to work at the department as a payment plan for parking tickets owed to the village.
"Doe owed $3,450, but Lt. Weiler cut this amount down to $400," Doe's lawyers say in the brief. "Lt. Weiler agreed to pay Doe $20 per hour from doing alcohol stings toward her tickets." According to the brief, she worked 18-30 hours a week entering citations on the computer or organizing the department's files. She most often worked with Lee as her supervisor, according to Doe's lawyers. Although the liquor enforcement program was officially managed by another officer in the department, Doe's lawyers submitted documents showing Lee was given a supervisory role in the alcohol sting events, which were paid for with grant money.
"The village's position is that he was not her supervisor," said Doe's lawyer Elizabeth Wang. "But an employee can have more than one supervisor. [She] counts as an employee and the law does apply to the village in terms of Detective Lee and my client."
If Lee is determined to have been Doe's supervisor, the standard of liability for the village is stricter, from negligence to strict liability, said Village Attorney Julie Bruch in February.
Wang also said her client's suit depended on claims that the police department did not adequately create a climate that discouraged sexual harassment and sexual misconduct among its force of 38 officers.
The suit says the department "directly encourages the very type of misconduct at issue here, by failing to adequately train, supervise and control its officers ... leading Forest Park police officers to believe their actions will never be scrutinized and directly encouraging future abuses."
Wang said Monday the village's procedure for punishing officers accused of sexual misconduct, abuse or harassment was flawed. Even though the village provided sexual harassment seminars for officers in 2009 and 2010, Wang said the seminars weren't working.
"[Sexual misconduct] has happened a lot in that department," Wang said. "We presented evidence that Forest Park's police department had a problem with sex assault or harassment every year between 2007-2011. In a department as small as Forest Park, that's a real red flag."
Wang said that the Police Chief James Ryan's testimony in depositions for the case makes it clear that the department fails to deter officers from committing sexual misconduct.
Ryan testified in deposition that after an independent investigation had determined that Lee had behaved in conduct unbecoming an officer, he gave Lee a 15-day suspension and revoked 15 vacation days. But Ryan said in deposition that he didn't make the reason for Lee's suspension public.
"Everybody knew exactly what was transpiring with Officer Lee," Ryan said in deposition. "I do not publicly — and I have never publicly discussed investigations, discipline of any employee."
Wang said Ryan's procedure was inadequate and led to officers believing sexual misconduct was not taken seriously.
"[Ryan] can say all the wants that we don't tolerate it, but when it keeps happening on an annual basis, there is something wrong," Wang said. "Nobody is made aware of what discipline is given out when they are accused [of sexual misconduct]. It's important that officers know that the department will not tolerate it and there will be consequences."
Wang said the village's next step is to file a response by April 12 and then the judge would rule.
"We're hoping for a trial toward the end of the year," said Wang, noting that a separate lawsuit against Lee had not resulted in a motion for summary judgment. That means the judge will hear a trial sooner in Doe's complaint against Lee, she said.
"If any judgment is awarded for compensatory damages [against Lee], the village would have to indemnify him for those. As far as punitive damages awarded, those would come out of Lee's own pocket. That's a legal issue for the judge to determine."
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