Lawsuit alleges Jessamine EMS director raped employee, engaged in pattern of sexual harassment

gkocher1@herald-leader.comFebruary 21, 2014 

NICHOLASVILLE — The director of Jessamine County Emergency Medical Services engaged in "sexually offensive gestures, comments and requests for sexual favors" with a female employee, and also raped the woman, according to a lawsuit.

The allegations against EMS Director Jerry Domidion are contained in a lawsuit filed Monday in Jessamine Circuit Court by J. Robert Cowan, an attorney for plaintiffs Michael and Katherine Hurst.

The suit names Domidion as a defendant, as well as Jessamine Fiscal Court, Judge-Executive William Neal Cassity, and Shelby Horne, director of Jessamine County's E-911 Center.

Domidion, Cassity and Jessamine County Attorney Brian Goettl had no comment Friday on the suit. Goettl said the county's insurer has hired Lexington attorney Barry Stilz to represent it. Stilz also had no comment.

The Herald-Leader normally does not identify alleged victims of rape, but Cowan said the Hursts agreed to be identified in this article.

The suit says Domidion engaged in "continuing, pervasive, outrageous and unlawful conduct of a sexual nature directed at" Katherine Hurst, "as well as numerous other subordinate female employees."

The suit asks for, among other things, a trial by jury, an award of damages for the alleged rape, and an award of damages for "continuing unlawful misconduct."

Katherine Hurst was hired as an emergency medical technician with JCEMS in 1999, the suit says. Shortly after she began her employment, Domidion "began making sexually offensive gestures, comments and requests for sexual favors to Katherine and numerous other subordinate female JCEMS employees," the suit says.

Katherine Hurst "made it clear to Domidion that his conduct was offensive and she begged that it stop," the suit says. "Domidion made it clear to Katherine that she would regret ever mentioning his continuing sexual misconduct to any other individual."

The suit says that "while on duty, Domidion used his government vehicle to travel to the JCEMS West Station while Katherine was working. On one occasion, Domidion engaged in sexual intercourse with Katherine by forcible compulsion."

The suit says this alleged sexual assault happened in 2009. There is no record of a formal charge or indictment in Jessamine court records.

The suit says that Katherine Hurst, "traumatized by the encounter, did not immediately report the brutal attack because she felt her employment would be terminated if she complained. ...As a single mother, receiving little or no assistance from the biological father, Katherine desperately needed her job to provide for her child and for herself."

The suit says Katherine Hurst was "physically intimidated by Domidion."

"She felt that were she to report the extremely embarrassing and humiliating event she would certainly face further and more traumatic physical harm and certainly the loss of her employment and suffer ridicule."

Subsequent to the alleged sexual assault, Domidion continued "unwanted physical contact and sexually explicit gestures, comments and prurient suggestions to Katherine and other females," the suit says.

While on business trips, Domidion would call Katherine Hurst while intoxicated and say that he wanted her to come with him next time so he could sneak into her room and have sex with her, the suit says.

"Katherine refused such suggestions and made it clear that they were unwanted."

In March 2011, Domidion summoned Katherine Hurst to a meeting in which only the two of them were present, according to the suit. During the meeting, "Domidion rubbed up against Katherine's thigh in a highly sexual manner," the suit says. "Katherine pleaded with him to please not ever touch her like 'that' anymore."

The suit says Domidion's alleged conduct was known by Cassity and members of Jessamine Fiscal Court. Katherine Hurst said in the suit that she complained to her supervisor, Deputy Director Ollie Burge, that she was "uncomfortable around Domidion because of his inappropriate conduct."

Domidion is also a defendant in a 2012 suit by fired JCEMS employee Andrew Wood. In interrogatories filed in that suit, which is still pending, Jessamine Fiscal Court is asked to "Please admit that Jerry Domidion had non-consensual sexual relations with subordinate employees...." Fiscal court answered: "The Jessamine Fiscal Court is not aware of any such action and does not believe it occurred."

In April 2011, JCEMS employees Tina Griggs and Rebecca Schaefer filed sexual harassment complaints against Domidion. They complained that they had been subjected to "unwanted forced physical contact and similar unlawful sexually explicit gestures, comments and suggestions."

Jessamine Fiscal Court hired an attorney, Kay Reis, to investigate the complaints. Domidion was placed on administrative leave during the investigation and was instructed to not contact JCEMS employees.

But the suit says that Domidion contacted employees and told them "to engage in behavior that he knew would disrupt the purported purpose of the investigation."

Reis wrote in her final report that she believed Domidion engaged in "sexual banter" with female employees prior to his promotion to executive director, the suit says.

Griggs was discharged in 2011, and Katherine Hurst testified on Griggs' behalf during a hearing for unemployment benefits in May 2012. After her testimony, Katherine Hurst revealed to her husband, Michael, and Griggs' lawyer that she had been raped by Domidion, the suit says.

Katherine Hurst reported the alleged rape to the Jessamine County Crime Victim's Office, which referred her to a private counselor. Ultimately, the counselor and Katherine Hurst "agreed that Katherine was still not able to endure the stress of criminal or civil litigation," the suit says.

In April 2011, Katherine Hurst suffered a work-related injury, but the suit does not describe the injury. She was terminated and instructed to apply for retirement benefits.

Michael Hurst, a former Nicholasville police officer, was employed by the E-911 Center in 2008. He alleges that he was harassed by two female employees at the center. He was moved to a night shift, but complained that he was "suffering unlawful retaliation and discrimination."

Michael Hurst was fired on Nov. 25, 2013 for "repeatedly using the 'f word' during an earlier incident," the suit says.

Greg Kocher: (859) 231-3305. Twitter: @HLpublcsafety

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