Women suing Salt Lake City, police department and superior officers over sexual harassment case

Posted at 5:57 PM, Sep 04, 2015
and last updated 2015-09-04 23:45:28-04

SALT LAKE CITY -- As expected, three former and current female officers with the Salt Lake City Police Department have filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against the city and their former bosses.

The women claim they were sexually harassed by former Deputy Chief Rick Findlay, and that Findlay took photographs of the women in bikinis from two of the officers' phones and shared them with others without their consent.

Another woman says Findlay told co-workers that he had personal photographs of her.

The lawsuit filed Friday lists three plaintiffs: Robin Heiden, Melody Gray and Tiffany Commagere.

“It became clear that no one was going to stand up for us, which is why we filed this lawsuit today," a statement released Friday and attributed to all three women read.

Attorneys for the officers told FOX 13 News back in May they intended to file suit, and at that time they stated the city’s human resource department had determined the plaintiffs had been sexually harassed by their superior officer.

Former Salt Lake City PD Chief Chris Burbank placed Findlay on administrative leave, where he stayed for seven months until he retired.

"All of us were sexually harassed by the same man, yet he was allowed to retire with full benefits without discipline," the statement from the women reads. "…despite it being 2015, sexual harassment is alive and well."

See the bottom of this story for the full text of the statement issued by the women Friday.

Attorney Ed Brass said in May that no further disciplinary action was taken against Findlay, which he said is an issue.

“The problem is without the ordinary discipline process, they haven’t been able to get this behind them, it doesn’t appear from the outside that this has been taken seriously by the administration and the police department," Brass said in May.

The handling of the case led to a dispute between the mayor and the former chief, with Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker giving Burbank an ultimatum to either apologize for the handling of the case, or resign. Both men recently spoke to FOX 13 News about the issue, click here for details.

Mayor Becker's office told FOX 13 News Friday they had not yet reviewed the lawsuit, and would not be commenting until they had the opportunity to do so.

FOX 13 News has reached out to the other defendants named in the lawsuit--the police department, Findlay and Burbank--but has not yet received a response.

The full statement from the plaintiffs is below:

As the three officers at the heart of this case, we want the public to know that we won’t sit idly by and allow ourselves to be harassed by a superior officer and subsequently mistreated by our employer. All of us were sexually harassed by the same man, yet he was allowed to retire with full benefits without discipline. We have questioned the treatment of this case from the start and whether justice has been met.

Our case is proof that, despite it being 2015, sexual harassment is alive and well, and so is the system that provides more protections to perpetrators than victims. This seems to be particularly true in professions that are generally male-dominated.

Let our case serve notice to both public and private employers: you are obligated to protect your employees. To anyone suffering at the hands of a harasser, do not be afraid of what might happen to you if you speak up. There are federal, state and local laws designed to protect you. Use them. If you do not speak out, change cannot be effected.

 As mothers, peace officers and members of this community, we do not want our children, colleagues and friends to just accept that they may be victimized because of their gender, that they should ignore this treatment for the sake of an organization, or that they should ever fear reprisal. Nor do we want anyone to think that they can treat women or men with disrespect, simply because it is tacitly accepted at all levels. In the end, these are the reasons why we came forward and made our identities known -- despite the likelihood that we would be criticized, ostracized, retaliated against, berated, or otherwise demeaned. 

We expect that people want to know all sides of any story and welcome the opportunity to tell ours—in the proper venue. This is not political for us. It is about right and wrong. It became clear that no one was going to stand up for us, which is why we filed this lawsuit today. Everyone has the right to be employed in a safe workplace, free from harassment and hostility—something we have been denied for nearly two years.