The first woman to ever serve in a Michigan city’s police force says that she faced a near-constant deluge of sexual harassment from soon after she started until she was forced to resign.
Teresa Williams joined the Iron City Police Department (IMPD) in October 2017 — the only female officer in the department, according to a sexual harassment and discrimination lawsuit filed in February. She was the only female officer in the department, and according to the complaint, her supervisor treated her as a liability from the start.
IMPD Deputy Director Joseph Dumais allegedly “referred to Plaintiff’s hire as the first female officer as a ‘lawsuit waiting to happen,'” the complaint alleges. “Nonetheless, Dumais would grope and force Plaintiff to kiss him within weeks of her employment.”
Dumais and Officer Garth Budek — both named as defendants in the case — also had allegedly “made a bet as to which officer would have sex with Plaintiff first after she was hired.”
Shortly after starting at the IMPD, Williams, having been invited to a local bar with Budek and Dumais, was allegedly told that she had to take an “IMPD shot” with Dumais as part of her “initiation” to the police department.
“Dumais explained that the IMPD shot involved taking a shot of fireball liquor then making out with each other,” the complaint explains. Williams refused, and told her colleagues that it sounded like something they made up.
“Dumais responded that it was required and that everyone had to do it as standard protocol,” the complaint says. “To allegedly demonstrate, Dumais took an initial shot along with a former county dispatcher (male) then kissed him. Ultimately, Plaintiff buckled to the pressure and took the ‘IMPD shot’ with Dumais who, as a result, kissed Plaintiff and stated that she was now ‘officially part of IMPD.'”
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Dumais later pressured Williams into taking a second “IMPD shot” with him and allegedly “put his hand between Plaintiff’s legs and grabbed her genitals.”
“Plaintiff froze in fear,” the complaint continued. “From this point forward, it was clear to Plaintiff that she would be subject to ongoing harassment and treatment by her all male colleagues[.]”
According to the complaint, that’s exactly what happened. Williams’ patrol officer, Budek, allegedly forced himself on her multiple times, the first time being as she was driving him home after a night out at a local bar.
“Budek proceeded to tell Plaintiff “how hot her ‘ass’ looked in her duty pants” and forcing himself on the Plaintiff,” the complaint says. Budek allegedly only stopped trying to kiss Williams after she “stopped resisting.” At that point, Budek allegedly “apologized and began crying stating that what he did was ‘not fine’ and that he ‘did not want her mad at him.’ In the moment, Plaintiff told Budek it was fine and that he needed to get into his house.”
In another incident, the complaint says, Budek told Williams that it was “‘difficult to work with her’ because he is distracted looking at her and he found it hard to restrain himself.” He then tried to kiss her, but she refused.
Williams’ complaint says that there were “countless incidents of Budek” groping her and making sexual comments about her while they were working. Her work environment with Budek became “extremely hostile” after an incident in which she says he pressured her to perform oral sex on him while watching a movie with Budek and his wife at their house.
“Shortly after, there was an incident during a traffic stop in which Plaintiff and Budek were in disagreement on which turned hostile,” the complaint says. “Budek screamed at Plaintiff and belittled her while she was driving. Budek called Plaintiff a ‘B—-‘ and a ‘c—.'”
The following day, Williams says she was assigned a new partner. This partner would eventually reveal the alleged bet between Dumais and Budek.
Williams’ complaint goes on to list a variety of challenges and hurdles she allegedly faced in her years with the IMPD, including not having proper backup on an emergency call, being criticized for her “radio demeanor,” and facing ongoing belittling language from Budek at “every chance he could.”
She was also reportedly told to “watch her back around Dumais,” who apparently “never wanted her hired and planed to using [sic] anything he could against her.” Dumais had allegedly said that it was a “lawsuit nightmare” to have a female officer in the department, the lawsuit says.
Williams resigned in April 2022, writing in a letter that it was “evident” that she would never be completely accepted in the department.
“Plaintiff was an outcast during her entire employment,” the complaint says. “She was sexually harassed, belittled, and habitually undermined. When Plaintiff submitted complaints, her abusers found ways to discipline her and threatened her with further discipline for discussing the matter further. When she pressed the issue of sexual harassment, she was ultimately forced to resign or face termination.”
Williams is alleging civil rights violations, discrimination, hostile work environment, sexual harassment, retaliation, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. She is seeking payment of lost wages and benefits as well as an undetermined amount of compensatory and punitive damages.
Iron Mountain Mayor Dale Alessandrini declined Law&Crime’s request for comment.
According to the federal docket, the defendants must reply to the complaint by April 21.
Read the complaint here.
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