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Ex-Chicago Park District Lifeguard Files Lawsuit Citing Culture Of Sexual Abuse, Harassment; 'Sexual Harassment Saturdays' Was A Noted Activity

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Her calls for help were ignored.

Another victim of the Chicago Park District scandal involving young lifeguards comes forward after two scathing reports led to disciplinary action against dozens of employees and the resignation of the Park District Superintendent last month.

CBS 2 Investigator Megan Hickey reports this victim blew the whistle back in 2017. CBS 2 has the emails here to prove it, sent to city of Chicago beach managers and Human Resources asking to be reassigned because of the harassment she suffered. But she said no one responded.

"She asked to be transferred she asked for them to do something. And she never received a response from anyone.  No response. Silence."

She's listed as Jane Doe in the lawsuit filed Thursday against the Chicago Park District and three lifeguard employees. She worked as a junior lifeguard at Oak Street Beach, a coveted assignment, for four years starting in 2014 when she was just 16 years old.

"The mates and the captains were predominantly male while the junior lifeguards were heavily female."

Her attorney Bridget Duignan said for years she was exposed to a culture of sexual assault, harassment and gender-related violence.

One example? So called "Sexual Harassment Saturdays."

"It was an activity that allowed the male lifeguards to inappropriately touch — and without consent — the female lifeguards throughout the day," Duignan said. "And this was also conduct was sanctioned by the mates and captains."

Emails obtained by the CBS 2 Investigators show she asked to be reassigned twice in 2017, citing abusive treatment from her superiors. The subject line of one email: "C-worker Concerns, open ASAP."

Diugnan said the "code of silence" was part of the problem.

"It's no doubt in my mind that that was the first or only complaint made back then," she said.

A probe into harassment among lifeguards began last March, resulting in disciplinary action against 42 employees. A total of 14 Chicago Park District employees have now been fired or prevented from rehire since this started. According to a search of recent city salary data, the three male lifeguards named in Jane Doe's lawsuit are no longer employed by the city.

The Chicago Park District released a statement to CBS 2:

The Chicago Park District takes all allegations of professional misconduct and abuse with the greatest level of seriousness. We continue to support the ongoing OIG investigation and we are reviewing our policies and processes to make sure all employees and patrons are safe and respected, and that their concerns are heard and  addressed with urgency and compassion. 


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