‘What, are you lactating?’: Former Shedd employee files sexual discrimination lawsuit

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**DISCLAIMER: The following story contains profane language some may find offensive.

CHICAGO — A former Shedd Aquarium Society employee has filed a sexual discrimination lawsuit claiming she was subjected to a hostile and sexist work environment as the only woman aboard a Shedd research vessel.

The lawsuit, filed Thursday, says Susan Edgerton was the first and only woman hired to work on the Coral Reef II and that the all-male crew created a hostile work environment that subjected her to dangerous work conditions resulting in injuries.

The following claims were made in the lawsuit:

  • On a morning in November 2018, Edgerton said she was sweating after going on a run. The paperworks says First Mate Kip Mors, who quit in 2019, looked at her breasts and said, “What, are you lactating?”
  • On another occasion, Mors allegedly called a woman who filed sex discrimination claims against Shedd a “f—— c—,” and Captain Zoltan Bobick referred to her as a “f—— b—-.” Mors then allegedly said, “How could we be sexist? We hired a woman.”
  • First Mate James Wyse, Mors’ replacement, responded to Edgerton sticking out her tongue by saying, “That’s the first action I’ve gotten all week.”
  • On repeated occasions, Edgerton claimed she was subjected to threatening and derogatory language.

The lawsuit also claims Edgerton was injured as a result of Bobick’s direct orders. She claims she broke her feet while on the job jumping from the vessel’s deck to a concrete dock. She claims her superiors brushed off her injury.

Edgerton’s workload was allegedly increased and she says she was the only employee made to do jobs aboard the ship such as cleaning and cooking.

Edgerton was fired from the Shedd on May 30, 2019. The lawsuit claims Bobick falsely accused her of misconduct once she started speaking out about being subjected to “gender-based double standards.”

She is seeking compensatory damages in an amount to be determined at trial.

In response, the Shedd issued a statement that reads:

For decades, Shedd Aquarium has adhered to and acted upon its rigorous policies and procedures related to harassment and discrimination. Moreover, we also perform annual prevention training for all employees.  We do not tolerate conduct inconsistent with these policies and our values, including aboard our research vessel.

We cannot comment specifically about a matter in litigation, except that we categorically take all allegations of this nature seriously, deny these claims and will defend this matter in responsibility to our work, our people and our community.  We also note that Ms. Edgerton filed her claims with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) in December 2019. We promptly investigated the matter and responded to the EEOC, and last week the agency terminated its processing of her claims. 

Read the full lawsuit:

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