July 29, 2021
A Las Vegas firefighter who said he was ostracized and intimidated after reporting sexual activity at a station has filed a lawsuit against the department and the city.
In August 2017, Eric Scheumann said he told Las Vegas Fire Department management that he had witnessed a fellow firefighter, identified in the complaint as Bill Winder, engaging in sexual activity with a woman behind closed curtains in the dorm area of Fire Station 9.
Scheumann heard “noises that sounded like individuals shuffling around and then sounds of kissing,” and “immediately complained” to Capt. Ruben Sanchez, the lawsuit states.
The woman stayed through Winder’s shift, and her daughter joined the crew at about 5:30 p.m. for dinner, when she showed them “a sexually explicit screenshot,” according to the lawsuit.
As Scheumann continued up the chain of command with the allegations, Sanchez told him to “shut the f—- up,” the suit alleges.
“For nearly 15 years Plaintiff never experienced any issues with coworkers until one began violating (Las Vegas Fire Department) policy, which Plaintiff reported and then was retaliated against for doing so,” the document states.
Scheumann, who started with the department in October 2002, filed the lawsuit Tuesday in federal court.
In 2017, Winder denied any misconduct in a brief phone interview with the Review-Journal, saying he “did not violate any policy.” He could not be reached Wednesday.
Scheumann said in the suit that he “experienced an increase in hostility and retaliation from his coworkers” and management after the Review-Journal reported on a document that outlined the allegations in September 2017.
“Senior management ostracized Plaintiff in an attempt to cover up the cultural history of discrimination throughout the department,” the suit alleges.
Fire Department spokesman Tim Szymanski referred requests for comment to city officials. Las Vegas spokesman David Riggleman declined to comment on the litigation.
The suit alleges sexual harassment, retaliation, equal protection, breach of the duty of fair representation, intentional/negligent infliction of emotional distress, and negligent supervision, training, hiring and retention.
In December 2017, an internal investigation found that Scheumann’s claims were unfounded and that a broader culture of promiscuity in city firehouses did not exist.
But earlier that same year, former Capt. Richard Loughry had been charged with having sex with a 15-year-old prostitute inside Station 47. He later was ordered to serve probation and register as a sex offender for paying the teenager $300 for sex.
In interviews with the Review-Journal, a former Las Vegas emergency medical technician said sex was commonplace inside fire stations across the valley. Then-fire Chief William McDonald said he would install surveillance cameras and limit visitation at all 20 stations to prevent sexual misconduct within the department.
Scheumann alleges in his lawsuit that a continued hostile work environment “adversely affected” his health, and he ultimately sought medical treatment.
He also alleges that after he tried to file a grievance with the firefighters union, representatives made it clear to him “that if he did file a grievance that it would be dead in the water and go nowhere.”
Union officials could not be reached Wednesday.
Early last year, the Las Vegas City Council agreed to pay $560,000 to settle a separate lawsuit with Scheumann in which he claimed to have worked thousands of unreported or underreported overtime hours over a three-year span.