Fire Department Responded Adequately To Sexual Harassment Allegations

Shannon Moran is a female firefighter with the City of Detroit, Michigan. One night, Moran was assigned to “cot duty,” where she slept on a cot near a computer to monitor and alert the other firefighters of any calls for service. Moran was woken up by her direct supervisor, Sergeant Terry Tatum, when he inappropriately touched her underneath her shorts.

Moran immediately reported the incident to Detroit police. The Department assigned Moran and Tatum to different firehouses. Lengthy investigations into the incident occurred.

Ultimately, after nearly a two-year period, Tatum was fired following an investigation by the City’s legal department. He also pled no contest to criminal charges.

Moran then filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against the City, claiming that the City allegedly failed to take prompt and appropriate remedial action. When a jury rejected her claims, Moran appealed to the Michigan Court of Appeals, contending that the jury’s verdict was against the weight of the evidence.

The Court rejected Moran’s lawsuit. The Court found that the evidence showed that the City immediately began an investigation, and that the matter was referred to the “top man” in the Department. The Court cited the fact that even though the City immediately separated Moran and Tatum by assigning them to different firehouses, when Moran was offered a permanent assignment that she admitted would have been much nicer for her, she declined it to avoid the appearance she was receiving special treatment.

While the Court acknowledged that there were delays in the City’s investigation, the Court noted that the jury could have concluded that the delays were caused by Tatum’s refusal to cooperate, due process concerns, the ongoing criminal proceedings, and union safeguards. In the end, the Court held that “the jury’s conclusion that the City responded promptly and adequately is not against the great weight of the evidence.”

Moran v. City of Detroit, 2006 WL 1083554 (Mich.App. 2006).