Archive for October 30th, 2018

Sexual harassment lawsuit against Country Club Hills (more)

Excerpts from the

A jury has awarded more than $11 million in damages to Country Club Hills Firefighter Dena Lewis-Bystrzycki who sued the city over alleged gender discrimination, sexual harassment and retaliation.

The lawsuit filed against the city in 2012, alleged she was passed over for a promotion and retaliated against for reporting misbehavior. She later amended her complaint to include allegations that firefighters regularly watched pornography at the fire station.

On Monday, after more than two weeks of trial testimony and a couple hours of deliberation, the jury returned a verdict in favor of Lewis-Bystrzycki. The 12-member jury found in favor of the firefighter on all three of her claims — gender discrimination, sexual harassment and retaliation — and awarded her a combined $11,213,000, a copy of the judge’s signed order shows.

The $11 million-plus award is broken down into $8 million for emotional harm and mental suffering; $2 million for compensatory damages; $1,085,000 for lost future earnings; $78,000 for time, earnings and salaries lost; and $50,000 for counseling expenses.

Judge McGrath instructed the jury it could draw adverse inferences from the city’s destruction of digital evidence and its failure to adequately search documents on its computers. She had previously ordered Country Club Hills to reimburse Lewis-Bystrzycki for attorney fees and costs incurred to hire a forensic expert.

An additional trial on equitable relief is scheduled for Nov. 6, according to the judge’s order. That proceeding would determine the amount Lewis-Bystrzycki will be entitled to for the loss of her pension and attorneys fees, which are estimated at $3 to $4 million. The judge also will be ruling on injunctive relief at that time, which could involve the city being forced to implement and adhere to policies, procedures and training around sexual harassment.

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Evanston Fire Department news

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Evanston’s firefighters responded to twice as many calls during the daytime hours than they do at night, but the city’s 24-hour duty schedule for firefighters means staffing doesn’t vary with the predictable shift in demand. While police officers in Evanston work eight-hour shifts, permitting variation in staffing during different day parts, the 24-hour schedule for firefighters precludes that option. That scheduling pattern for the fire service is very common across the country, although a variety of other schedules, including eight and 12 hour shifts and split 10 and 14 hour shifts are also in use.

Calls for service data provided by Fire Chief Brian Scott show that the number of calls for Evanston’s five fire engines, two trucks, and two ambulances range from a low of one call every two hours in the pre-dawn darkness to more than one-and-a-half calls per hour at mid-day. Roughly two out of every three calls are ambulance runs.In addition to an ambulance, a fire engine is dispatched for every ambulance call.

Evanston Fire Department average hourly call volume

Some reports have raised questions about the health and safety impact of working 24-hour long shifts. And reports are mixed about which pattern is most efficient from a scheduling and overtimestandpoint.

Fire department data shows that Evanston’s ambulances are by far the most heavily used vehicles in the Evanston fire fleet. Ambulance 21 is on calls nearly 29 percent of the time, while Truck 23 is in use less than 7 percent of the time.

Evanston Fire Department unit utilization summary

The Glenview Fire Department has come up with a partial solution to the varying level of demand across different day parts. It runs two ambulances 24-hours a day and staffs a third ambulance for 12 hours each day — from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Glenview’s department serves a population of about 60,000 people in the village and adjacent unincorporated areas with four engines and one truck in addition to its ambulances.

Evanston’s Chief Scott says a third ambulance would help reduce call volume for the existing two ambulances which are extremely busy, but he says given the current budget deficit it would be extremely difficult to fund the addition of even 12 more hours of ambulance service.

The city manager has proposed closing Fire Station 4, which would eliminate the jobs of nine firefighters. If instead of closing the station, which now houses an engine, an ambulance operating for 12 hours a day were stationed there, it would make it possible to reduce the impact of the loss of the engine on service levels while still eliminating six of the nine firefighter jobs proposed to be cut.

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Crystal Lake Fire Department news

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One person is dead after a fire in a home in Crystal Lake Monday.

Fire officials said they were called to a home in the 600-block of Sussex Lane just after 4 p.m. by police officers, who said there was a fire both inside and outside the home where firefighters saw police taking a victim out of the front door of the home. The victim was taken to Northwestern Medicine Huntley Hospital where he died of his injuries.

Firefighters extinguished the flames, but said the home was extensively damaged. The cause of the fire is under investigation.

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