HAMMOND — A federal judge is refusing to dismiss a sexual harassment suit against East Chicago and one its police sergeants.
U.S. District Court Judge James T. Moody ruled Wednesday East Chicago Police Officer Ashly Rodriguez and Madelline Melendez, a former city officer, can go forward with claims the sergeant created a hostile work environment for women.
The two allege East Chicago Police Sgt. Juda Parks repeatedly demanded them to provide him with nude photographs of themselves in 2018, when he was their superior officer in a police training program.
Melendez also alleges Parks made a comment about her body, put his arm around her shoulder, once grabbed the front of her uniform shirt, pulled her and would swing her around like a child.
Chicago attorney Christopher Cooper said Thursday he was pleased with the judge’s decision and he expects the suit to go to a jury.
“Parks has never been disciplined for these matters. In fact he has since been promoted from an acting sergeant to a full-fledged sergeant. East Chicago refuses to take proper measures against such harassment,” Cooper said.
Parks' attorney has claimed Parks didn’t treat the two women any differently than if they had been men.
Moody rejected that, noting that Parks admitted to lawyers he would not have asked male officers for nude images of themselves.
City attorneys are arguing the city has policies in place forbidding sexual and work place harassment, but the women chose to file a lawsuit, rather than take full advantage of the city’s protections against harassment.
City attorneys also said Parks denies he asked for nude pictures, or said or did anything improper.