A federal agency has filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against two owners of a Rhea County ambulance service, officials said Friday.
The lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Chattanooga on Thursday names as defendants Daryle Cochran, director and owner of Rhea Emergency Medical Services LLC, and assistant director Gary Cochran. It alleges that the two sexually harassed three female employees, one still in high school, and that the three were fired for protesting the conduct.
Carol Ann Barron, attorney for the Cochrans, said Friday the claims are unfounded and that the women were fired for cause.
"They were not performing their tasks," Ms. Barron said. "These allegations are unsubstantiated."
The lawsuit states the harassment started Aug. 21, 2004, and that the Cochrans allegedly requested sex from the women and touched and grabbed them against their will. The complaint states one of the owners, who was not named, exposed himself to the women, made sexually explicit comments and used vulgar language.
When the women complained, they were fired, the EEOC said.
Sheriff Mike Neal said Friday that none of the women had filed complaints in his office at the time of the alleged incidents. Dayton Police Chief Chris Sneed could not be reached for comment.
"I've been a friend of Daryle's for a long time," Sheriff Neal said. "I don't believe he did this."
None of the women listed in the suit could be reached for comment.
Ms. Barron said the three women performed administrative duties, billing insurance companies. She said the high school student, who was 16 when she started at the company, worked after school.
"Neither one of the owners were present while she was working," Ms. Barron said.
The women were fired in March 2005 because they were late to work and not getting work completed, she said.
In an e-mailed statement, Katherine Kores, director of the EEOC's Memphis district office, said no person should lose a job for protesting sexual harassment.
"No one should be forced to endure the treatment these women were subjected to in the workplace," she said. "Especially a vulnerable teenager."
Faye Williams, EEOC attorney, said the agency tried reaching a settlement. The EEOC is asking for lost pay plus interest, and damages for emotional and psychological harm, court documents said.
E-mail Cliff Hightower at firstname.lastname@example.org
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