Out-of-court settlements totaling $284,500 have resolved federal lawsuits by three former Terre Haute Street Department workers alleging harassment and a hostile work environment.
Terry Fish Sr., who was a 40-year employee of the street department when he resigned in 2016, filed a lawsuit in July 2017 alleging battery, negligent supervision and negligent infliction of emotional distress.
The lawsuit claimed Fish, who was disabled due to cognitive and physical impairments, was frequently called “stupid” and “retard” by coworkers, was “dry humped” and had items thrown at him by coworkers. Supervisors knew of the incidents, but failed to act to protect Fish or properly train employees, the lawsuit alleged.
Fish filed a charge of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in November 2015. A subsequent EEOC investigation supported Fish’s allegations and indicated the harassment was “severe and pervasive” and that the city was aware of the harassment by co-workers and supervisors but failed to take action.
Monty Stillman, a 9-year employee of the street department, filed a lawsuit in August 2017 claiming he was fired by the city in May 2016 as retaliation because Stillman was a supporting witness for Fish in his discrimination complaint.
Stillman also said the city retaliated against him when he applied for another job. Several former supervisors and co-workers contacted his prospective employer and made false statements against Stillman, the lawsuit said.
Stephen Stedman, a 10-year employee of the street department, also filed a lawsuit in August 2017. He said he resigned in June 2016 due to “ongoing and worsening workplace harassment” of himself and his coworkers with no disciplinary action taken.
Stedman said some of the acts of retaliation he experienced were being run off the road by his coworkers, attempts to get him fired from his job, and comments that he should perform sexual acts on a coworker. Stedman claimed he reported the harassment to city officials but no action was taken to stop the harassment.
The EEOC investigated and affirmed the discrimination claims of both Stillman and Stedman.
Fish’s case was settled in October 2018 for a payment of $225,000.
Stillman’s case was settled in March 2019 for a payment of $47,500.
Stedman’s case was settled July 19, 2019 for a payment of $12,000. A jury trial set for July 29 was dismissed due to the settlement.
City attorney Darrell Edward Felling Jr. said the city had no comment on the resolution of the cases.
However, Felling did say two separate employee training sessions have been conducted since the lawsuits were filed. One training was a review of the city’s anti-harassment and zero-tolerance policy with the street department, he said. The other was a citywide presentation by the human relations department on cultural humility training.
The city plans to do annual updates on those, Felling said.
A request for comment from Paul Jungers, the attorney representing Fish, Stedman and Stillman in the federal lawsuits, was not returned.
Lisa Trigg can be reached at 812-231-4254 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter at TribStarLisa.