Paramedic claims Charleston County failed to protect her from sexual harassment

Updated: Mar. 8, 2019 at 6:37 PM EST
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CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - In a new lawsuit filed in federal court, a Charleston County paramedic claims her former supervisor sexually harassed her while on the job.

Kristin Hammond’s complaint argues Charleston County didn’t do enough to discipline the man she says harassed her or protect her and other employees from similar incidents.

The complaint claims Charleston County failed to take reasonable care to prevent sexual harassment in its EMS Department and did not have adequate policies prohibiting sexual harassment, adequate procedures for responding to a sexual harassment complaint, or adequate training on sexual harassment or no training at all.

“Ms. Hammond is bringing this lawsuit because she hopes what happened to her will never happen again to anyone in Charleston County,” said Hammond’s attorney, David Nauheim. "This lawsuit affects all female employees of Charleston County. It affects the public safety work those employees do. It affects their family, and it affects all the employers in the community.”

Hammond’s lawsuit says Malcolm DeFleice, who is also named as a defendant in the complaint, started acting inappropriately almost immediately after Hammond started working as a Charleston County EMS crew member in 2017.

“About two weeks after Ms. Hammond began working under Defendant and Crew Chief DeFleice, there was an incident at the station after clocking in when he slapped her on the buttocks as she walked out of the office. Ms. Hammond immediately verbally reprimanded him,” the lawsuit said. “On one occasion, he grabbed her breast as she was getting out of an ambulance. She swatted him away, reprimanded him and immediately left the area.”

Hammond’s complaint says she felt embarrassed, confused, ashamed, and scared to say anything for fear that DeFleice would retaliate and write her up because he was her supervisor.

“On one occasion in December of 2017, Defendant DeFleice snuck up on Ms. Hammond, put his hands on her hips and thrust himself against her,” Hammond’s complaint said. “She pushed him away, reprimanded him and immediately left the area.”

Hammond claims Charleston County failed to discipline DeFleice or prevent him from sexually harassing anyone else after she reported what happened to her.

“Sexual harassment is not a part of the job,” Nauheim said. “We hope that Charleston County will learn to take sexual harassment seriously and when they find, after a proper investigation, that it has occurred, they will hold the sexual harasser accountable so that it doesn’t happen again.”

Hammond’s attorney says his client tried to press criminal charges against DeFleice with the Charleston County Sherriff’s Office, but the charges were dropped.

The complaint claims other female employees, who have also worked with DeFleice, came forward with similar reports of sexual harassment.

“On information and belief, Mr. DeFleice never suffered discipline or consequences for the numerous women he sexually harassed during his 5.5-year tenure with the Defendant,” the lawsuit said.

Hammond’s complaint claims CCEMS did not conduct sexual harassment training for its employees and supervisors until after Hammond filed a charge of sex discrimination with the Equal Employemnt Opportunity Commission against Charleston County.

The lawsuit is asking for a court order requiring Charleston County to bring its policies, procedures, training and supervision in compliance with the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and for an injunction prohibiting retaliation by Charleston County against Hammond.

Charleston County officials said they do not comment on pending litigation, and DeFleice’s attorney has not responded to a request for comment.

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