A lawsuit alleging sexual harassment, a hostile work environment and retaliation has been filed against Fenton Township and its fire chief, who has been suspended with pay.

The complaint was filed last Wednesday in Genesee County Circuit Court on behalf of Firefighter Kristy Polidan and Captain Kirk Stephens, who remain employed with the department. The complaint alleges Polidan has been subjected to sexual harassment since she was hired in January 2015. The complaint states Polidan was repeatedly accused of having oral sex with Fire Chief Ryan Volz and when she complained to him about it, he instead subjected her to pervasive retaliatory harassment by suggesting she go under his desk and give him oral sex.

Volz is accused of further harassing Polidan and engaging in retaliatory behavior after she complained to a captain at another station, who subsequently suspended two firefighters for harassment. The complaint alleges Captain Stephens was subsequently subjected to retaliation for supporting Polidan in her complaint of sexual harassment to township officials.

Attorney Julie Gafkay is representing Polidan and Stephens. She tells WHMI it’s hard enough to make a complaint of sexual harassment and for the chief to react the way he did per the complaint is unspeakable. Gafkay says women shouldn’t have to be worried about making complaints or be concerned that if they do, they’ll be harassed more and what happened to Polidan should never have happened.

Prior to the lawsuit being filed, Volz and firefighter Paul Bjorklund were placed on paid administrative leave July 9th with Captain Steve Haiser appointed interim fire chief. Bjorklund is not named in the lawsuit. A board meeting was held last Wednesday to discuss possible disciplinary action pertaining to members of the fire department. Due to the pending litigation, discussion took place in closed session. Supervisor Bonnie Mathis abstained from discussion as Volz is her son-in-law.

The board has scheduled another meeting for this Thursday, August 3rd at 5pm. (JM/JK)