The Cook County Sheriff’s Office said in a statement Monday that it is conducting a thorough investigation into allegations made in a lawsuit filed last week by a current sheriff’s deputy, who claims he was harassed by co-workers because he is gay.
The two-count lawsuit, filed by Sheriff’s Deputy David Nardis, alleges several instances of sexual harassment over the course of his employment at the department since 1999 as well as retaliation made by supervisors after he voiced complaints about the attacks from co-workers and even a supervising sergeant, according to a report by CBS 2 Chicago.
No specific allegations were addressed in the statement from the agency, but an investigation has been launched into the matter by its independent Office of Professional Review.
“Harassment of any kind within the Cook County Sheriff’s Office is not tolerated,” the statement read. “Our policy clearly states that employees of the Cook County Sheriff’s Office are expected to treat others with dignity and mutual respect at all times and it is the right of every CCSO employee to experience a non-hostile work environment free from discrimination and harassment. This policy was put in place to protect our employees from harassment of any kind — including sexual orientation.”
In the suit, Nardis claims several instances of harassment, including times when co-workers would “put his safety and well being at risk” by addressing him and greeting him with lewd, anti-gay catcalls in front of inmates, according to the suit. Nardis also alleges that some deputies would break out into song, singing about “having a gay old time” when he would enter the room and that a sergeant repeatedly tormented him with a sign reading “I am gay,” according to the report.
All CCSO employees are required to report any instances of harassment, discrimination and retaliation, according to the statement. CBS reports that the suit claims Nardis filed a harassment complaint with his supervisor, who allegedly was in on the harassment and refused to escalate it to the Office of Professional Review. He also filed a separate claim with the Illinois Department of Human Rights, which led to retaliation in the form of inferior assignment and duties, the lawsuit alleges.
While no other specifics in the lawsuit were mentioned by the CCSO, the statement indicates the allegations go against its policies for employees.
“The Sheriff has zero tolerance for harassment in the work place and has pushed for stricter policies, discipline and mandatory training regarding harassment and discrimination,” read the statement.
The CCSO offered no further comments.