Lawsuit: Male EMS communications workers in East Baton Rouge subjected to ‘hostile work environment’

Lawsuit: Male EMS communications workers in East Baton Rouge subjected to ‘hostile work environment’

Every day in East Baton Rouge Parish, the men and women who staff the Emergency Medical Services communications center answer 911 calls and dispatch paramedics and ambulances — performing a vital and life-saving service.

But in a lawsuit filed earlier this month, two current and two former male emergency communications officers allege that male employees are discriminated against and harassed on the basis of their gender and treated differently than their female co-workers.

The four plaintiffs paint the East Baton Rouge EMS communications center as a “hostile work environment” for men.

“My clients have been driven to the point where they don’t feel they have another avenue of correction,” Charlotte McDaniel McGehee, who represents the four men, said Thursday of their lawsuit. “These people felt like they had nowhere else to go.”

The suit’s defendants include Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome, interim EMS administrator Chad Guillot, EMS communications chief Stacy Simmons and the East Baton Rouge Parish Communications District.

Broome’s spokeswoman, Rachel Haney, and EMS spokesman Mike Chustz — speaking for the agency, Guillot and Simmons — said they could not comment on the pending litigation. Chustz said the Parish Attorney’s Office “will be handling it from this point forward.”

Parish Attorney Lea Anne Batson likewise said her office had no comment.

The suit, which seeks monetary damages, has been assigned to state District Judge Wilson Fields.

The current EMS communications officers who filed the suit are David Scott Vidrine and Larry F. Whitmore. The former communications officers named as plaintiffs are Steven P. Bozeman and Zachary Stewart.

Vidrine, who has served in his current position since 2002, has been subjected to “sexist statements and daily harassment” by Simmons, the suit alleges, and has been subjected to a hostile work environment by Simmons and another female supervisor since 2004.

“Ms. Simmons has made statements that there are too many men in communications,” Vidrine states in the suit.

He also alleges that female employees are allowed to leave work to handle personal business without being charged for leave time, but male workers are forced to use their leave.

Whitmore claims in the suit that the alleged sexual discrimination and hostile work environment “has been an ongoing issue for years.” He contends Simmons does not talk to male employees “unless it is a necessity.”

Guillot “allows this treatment to continue and turns a blind eye to Stacy Simmons and her treatment of male employees,” Whitmore contends in the suit.

Stewart claims he was constructively terminated in early 2017 for reporting alleged gender discrimination. He had been an emergency communications officer since 2012.

Stewart says male EMS employees are forced to adhere to a 30-minute lunch with no extended breaks, while female workers are allowed to take extended lunches and breaks to smoke and handle personal business “with no charge to leave.”

“Ms. Simmons has repeatedly said at the EMS office that Emergency Communications Officer position is for women and men should not be in the position,” he alleges in the suit.

Bozeman, who was a 14-year EMS employee when he was constructively terminated, likewise complains in the suit about unfair treatment of male communications officers.