Phoenix fire employee sues city over sex-organ shaped pastaPosted: Updated:
Many are calling it the "sexaroni" scandal. A Phoenix Fire Department employee is suing the city claiming he was harassed by fellow firefighters with sexually explicit pasta shapes. After he complained, he says he was demoted for it.
"This is a man of integrity, this is a man who devoted 34 years of his life to the Phoenix Fire Department," said attorney Stephen Montoya.
He represents Frank Cheatham in a federal discrimination lawsuit. Legal documents show Cheatham climbed the ranks at the fire department over the years. Eventually, he became a deputy chief shift commander indirectly overseeing over 400 firefighters.
"It's a very important, very responsible position," Montoya said.
The federal lawsuit said Cheatham heard of inappropriate behavior at the Phoenix Fire Station 1 near Fourth Avenue and Van Buren.
Cheatham says he went to the firehouse on a Saturday to check it out and saw a drawing of the male reproductive organ on a pickle jar. He sent an email to the station's battalion chief saying this was inappropriate. Soon after, the suit claims he received an inter-office piece of mail that had penis and vagina shaped pasta pieces in it.
His name, Frank, was written on one of the pieces. The lawsuit says a few months after complaining, Cheatham was involuntarily transferred to the Safety Division which held less responsibility.
"They essentially gave him a nothing position, even though in over three decades of service, this guy was never disciplined," said Montoya.
Cheatham filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The EEOC found in his favor.
CBS 5 News obtained the city's final report on this investigation. It said there wasn't enough evidence to call Cheatham's reassignment retaliatory and that other management employees were reassigned during that time.
It's important to note Cheatham's title as a deputy chief did not change and he also did not receive a pay cut. He's seeking monetary damages and wants his old position back.
A city spokesperson tells CBS 5 News they are currently reviewing the lawsuit.
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