Normalization of Deviance of Sexual Harassment in EMS

Yesterday I was strolling about the internet reading and stumbled upon an article on a local New Jersey news website about a $195,000 civil settlement related to repeated sexual assault on a female EMT by her male “chief.” This settlement and related events were discovered through an OPRA request (non-disclosure by both parties was a requirement of the settlement). The Township’s Joint Insurance Fund paid for the settlement.

As though the events described in the court documents above were not terrible on their own- the chief is still employed by Mansfield EMS (Burlington County, NJ). Yes, he still has a job “leading” EMS providers even after violating one of his employees (on multiple occasions between 2015 and 2017) and creating a hostile work environment. As a non-profit entity I have to believe their board of directors is aware of these incidents- if not before, definitely after the lawsuit.

Perhaps the above and the normalization of deviance therein shouldn’t surprise me since many New Jersey providers I know weren’t bothered by these events or that providers were left in this man’s care even after he demonstrated his inability to provide leadership or even simple care for another human being. In the same news cycle many came to the defense of two Mohawk Ambulance EMS providers harassed by a local council woman- but, few cared to defend this EMT. Yet, we wonder why this behavior persists in our culture and why we are not respected by other public service entities- we don’t take care of each other. What we allow is what will continue.

What does this say to the citizens Mansfield EMS serves if a leader (and EMS provider) is accused of sexual assault and then the township settles (and attempts to hide these events)? Who are these citizens calling in their most vulnerable moments? Who exactly is showing up in their homes?

Relatedly, how does this “chief” still have an EMT certification? While this is a civil settlement and no criminal charges were filed, per their website NJ OEMS has previously launched investigations (and some suspensions/ revocations) of providers certifications based on providers’ behavior or in some cases charges, not convictions.

There are many excellent EMS providers in New Jersey; I have the privilege to work with a few of them. This one provider’s actions don’t reflect our mindset or beliefs- but our actions, or inactions, do. Allowing this kind of behavior in our community makes us liable. Not addressing this behavior allows the normalization of deviance of sexual assault and atmosphere of intimidation to continue.

I hope the Township of Mansfield and Mansfield EMS and NJ OEMS will do what’s right and replace this chief to protect and honor their EMS providers and their citizens. I hope other New Jersey EMS providers will stand for their colleagues if this happens to them and if need be vote with their feet (you never know if it will happen to you).

We are responsible for our profession and each other.

What we allow is what will continue.

“Chief” Lewis, we see you.

 

 

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8 thoughts on “Normalization of Deviance of Sexual Harassment in EMS

  1. Brian Behn

    I’m not sure this is any better, unless you have details not mentioned here. Concerning someone over a civil settlement without an admission of guilt seems to be a bit unfair.

    This is a civil suit and I think with the NDA signed we have no idea what actually happened. People settle all the time without admit to guilt and without being found responsible for damages.

    If there were criminal charges he was found guilty of then he absolutely deserves to lose his job. But otherwise, calling for a resignation or termination from the info here is also a bit unfair.

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    1. I mention in the blog that it was a civil suit and no charges were filed. I also linked directly to the court documents with details- including describing the hostile work environment. All this information is freely available to the public through an OPRA request.

      Most of our ability to do our jobs as providers hinge on public trust- this leader caused harm to his employees- how should the public expect to be treated?

      There’s plenty unfair here- calling for accountability isn’t part of that.

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  2. Howard A Kirkwood

    So now we are convicting people in EMS without anything but allegations? I thought that was limited to politicians and entertainers. EMS folks whine about their bosses jumping to conclusions and how they should be innocent until proven guilty. What about here? A lawsuit was settled for nuisance value, and the local authorities obviously don’t believe it (because they’ve kept the chief on the job).

    What is our standard? Guilty on accusation or innocent until proven guilty? How about a little consistency, EMS folks? Those of you with loud voices (like bloggers) need to think a bit more before you hit enter!

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  3. Andrew

    As a chief that was wrongfully accused of sexual harassment and hostile workplace, remeber there are 2 sides to every story. If even 50% of what was said in the court documents was true he would of been charged criminally….but he wasn’t.

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    1. I’m not so sure he would have been charged criminally- reasonable doubt is difficult to prove even with physical evidence.

      $195,000 is a pretty heavy settlement. And “even if 50% of what was in the court documents was true” is still way too much. Which 50% would be appropriate- hostile work environment or sexual assault?

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      1. Andrew

        My point is saying if “50% was true”, was not to say that the other 50% was ok, no one should ever endure harrassment. My point is that criminal charges for sexual harrassment are not uncommon and actual fairly easy to prove, of course things change state to state, and since I just went through this I’m pretty aware of the laws in my state. I have no dog in this fight, I dont know you or this chief at all. I do prefer to all sides of the story. (Please forgive typos, typing on my phone)

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      2. I don’t know the atmosphere in the town or within the agency. I agree it would be nice if we had all sides- but the non-disclosure clause for all parties make it difficult at this point. An OPRA request by an outside party is how the records were made public.

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      3. Skip

        $195k is not at all an”heavy settlement.” It is “nuisance value”. – far less than the cost of litigating.

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