By Dominic Adams
FENTON TOWNSHIP, Mich. — Two firefighters have filed a lawsuit against the township and its suspended fire chief over allegations of sexual harassment and retaliation.
The lawsuit was filed by Fenton Township firefighters Kristy Polidan and Kirk Stephens in Genesee Circuit Court on Wednesday, July 25, and alleges firefighters made sexual comments to Polidan and retaliated against Stephens when he attempted to support her.
Fenton Township Attorney Jack Belzer said he expected the township's insurance company would appoint an attorney to litigate the civil suit. He had no comment on the lawsuit's allegations.
The Flint Journal could not reach Fenton Township Fire Department Chief Ryan Volz for comment.
Both the township and Volz violated Polidan and Stephens' civil rights and caused loss of earnings, career opportunities, loss of reputation and others, the lawsuit alleges.
Polidan began working as a firefighter in Fenton Township in 2015 and the alleged sexual harassment was ongoing, according to her attorney Julie A. Gafkay.
“I think that the firefighters who are bringing this lawsuit are acting courageously and are trying to hold accountable the township and the chief for violations of their civil rights,” Gafkay said. “They're trying to make things better by bringing this lawsuit.”
The lawsuit seeks an unspecified amount of compensatory damages, lost wages and other relief.
Polidan claims firefighters were making sexual comments to her.
When Polidan complained about the alleged sexual harassment to Volz in hopes that he would put a stop to it, the lawsuit alleges Volz suggested she go under his desk and give him oral sex.
The alleged sexual harassment continued a few days later when Volz made a comment to Polidan “telling her she was going to have to go under his desk because he was having a stressful day,” according to the lawsuit.
Polidan was offended by the comment and the ongoing allegations by other firefighters that she gave Volz oral sex, the lawsuit claims.
Two of the firefighters were subsequently suspended after Polidan complained to the captain at fire station 2, but nothing happened to Volz, according to the lawsuit.
Polidan was reprimanded by Volz, the lawsuit claims, and was told not to complain to officers at station 2.
The alleged harassment against Polidan continued, according to the lawsuit, and in January a firefighter asked her to send him a photo of her breasts and she refused.
Since nothing had been done about the situation, Polidan, Stephens and a few other firefighters complained to township officials, according to the lawsuit.
The group complained to Clerk Robert Krug and Deputy Clerk Thomas Broecker about the alleged sexual harassment and retaliation by Volz.
Stephens claims in the lawsuit he was retaliated against because he supported Polidan. The retaliation allegedly included not allowing Stephens to act as the officer in charge when Volz was absent, even though Stephens was the highest ranking officer, the lawsuit alleges.
Volz and another unnamed firefighter were placed on paid administrative leave on July 9. However, officials have not said why the pair are on leave.
A special meeting was scheduled for Wednesday, July 25, but was postponed until 5 p.m. on Thursday, Aug. 2, Belzer said.
Copyright 2018 Flint Journal
McClatchy-Tribune News Service