Deidre Green accused former Chicago Fire Commissioner John Brooks of sexual harassment. | Sun-Times file photo
Fire Dept. worker sues city after sex-harassment claim upheld
A $63,048-a-year payroll auditor for the Chicago Fire Department has filed a federal lawsuit against the city — armed with a finding of discrimination by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission that upheld her sexual harassment charge against former Fire Commissioner John Brooks.
“Every time I think about it, it brings tears to my eyes. I just want to be made whole because I feel I was so wronged,” Deidre Green, 47, said Tuesday.
“I was sexually harassed. They tried to fire me. I had a semi-nervous breakdown and was off work for two years on medical leave. I only got 67 percent of my pay. I wasn’t the first to go through this and I won’t be the last. If I get some restitution, maybe this behavior will stop. Or maybe other women will have the courage to report it.”
Brooks abruptly retired in 2010, two months after Green accused her boss of coming on to her sexually and targeting her for layoff when she refused his repeated advances.
“He would call my cellphone and say women wanted to feel on him and suck on him and why didn’t I like him. He said I probably didn’t have anybody of his caliber. He said he liked big boobs and would like to look down my top,” Green recalled Tuesday.
Then-Office of Compliance chief Anthony Boswell was accused of quashing an investigation into the woman’s claims.
Brooks vehemently denied Green’s allegations but added fuel to the fire with his politically incorrect response.
“I do not proposition women. I don’t have to. Women usually proposition me. God has blessed me like that,” Brooks told the Chicago Sun-Times at the time in response to Green’s harassment allegations.
Then-Mayor Richard M. Daley subsequently asked former Judge Patricia Brown Holmes to conduct an independent investigation of the harassment claims against Brooks and the cover-up allegations against Boswell.
Holmes concluded that Brooks’ “behavior and comments were inappropriate for the workplace.” But she also ruled there was no wrongdoing by either man.
The U.S. EEOC reached a far different conclusion, setting the stage for Green’s lawsuit against the city. On Sept. 19, 2012, district director John Rowe ruled that Green’s complaint “establishes reasonable cause to believe” that she was a victim of sexual harassment.
Rowe further concluded that Brooks “retaliated” against Green for filing racial and sexual harassment allegations against her boss with the city’s now-defunct Office of Compliance.
Brooks could not be reached for comment on Green’s lawsuit. According to Rowe, the campaign of “harassment and intimidation” against Green included having her vacation denied, merit pay raise delayed, being targeted for layoff and being subject to disciplinary actions that reduced her seniority.
The alleged harassment got so bad, Green was forced to go on medical leave in early 2010, records show.
Brooks could not be reached for comment on Green’s lawsuit.
The complaint seeks lost wages, liquidated double-damages, compensatory and punitive damages, pre- and post-judgment interest and attorneys fees on grounds that the city should have taken action to stop the alleged harassment.
Instead, Green claims she was reassigned twice — from Fire Department headquarters at 35th and Michigan to district offices because department brass “didn’t want to work around me.”
Green said the EEOC’s finding vindicated her claims against Brooks after the city report that amounted to a whitewash.
“When he first approached me, I was kind of stunned. I had never gone through anything like this before. He was just becoming commissioner. He had authority over my job. I didn’t know what to say,” Green recalled. “It was humiliating, horrific and sad. I don’t want anybody else to have to go through this.”
The city says her lawsuit should be dismissed because she doesn’t identify a city policy or practice that led to the alleged constitutional violations against her.