(WSVN) - A South Florida man took a job with the town of Pembroke Park hoping it would be the start of a long career in public service, but instead of finding fulfillment, he has now filed a lawsuit against the town, saying he was bullied and sexually harassed on the job. 7’s Kevin Ozebek investigates.
WARNING: THIS STORY HAS GRAPHIC CONTENT.
Robert Patterson does not want you to see his face, but he does want you to know what he endured while working for the town of Pembroke Park, and why he’s now suing his former employer.
Kevin Ozebek: “Is it still painful for you to think about everything that you went through when you were employed with the town?”
Robert Patterson: “It’s painful, and it’s hard to sleep at night sometimes, and I wake up angry a lot.”
Robert says he accepted a job in the Parks Department three years ago. He maintained the town’s green spaces.
Robert Patterson: “I did like the job.”
But according to the lawsuit Robert filed, he says his direct supervisor, Chris McKine, started sending him pornographic and harassing text messages from his work-issued phone.
The texts were sent in a group chat with two other co-workers.
Robert Patterson: “I felt bullied, yes, and I felt intimidated.”
The text messages that offended Robert are way too graphic to show. They include an image of what appears to be an underage boy giving a middle finger as he begins to expose his genitals.
He was also sent an image of female genitals with the message, “This is what Robert is.”
Robert Patterson: “I wasn’t OK with it, but I rolled along with it, hoping it would go away.”
But Robert says, for months, his supervisor kept sending vulgar content, like a text about an oral sex contest. Underneath, the words, “Robert please don’t come anymore!!! We need our ladies competing only!!!”
Robert Patterson: “I felt very offended.”
But Robert says, one day while at work in April of 2018, he went from offended to downright scared … so scared that he filed a charge of discrimination, saying Chris threatened him with a gun and “created a hostile work environment.”
Robert Patterson: “Every day I would work it was scary, because you never know what this guy would do.”
Robert was placed on paid leave, but a few weeks later he was terminated.
He went with his attorney to pick up his final paychecks, but he says, when he tried to cash them, the town had issued a stop payment order.
His attorney says a new check was later issued for less money.
Micah Longo, Robert’s attorney: “The only way I can describe it is that he was terrorized, that it was done with purpose and intent.”‘
Robert is suing Pembroke Park for sexual harassment, claiming those texts caused “mental anguish,” “loss of dignity” and “humiliation.”
As for Chris McKine, we spotted him in uniform at Town Hall.
Kevin Ozebek: “Chris, can we please talk to you about these text messages you sent Robert?”
And followed him until we got answers.
Kevin Ozebek: Would you like to say anything about why you were sending this on a town phone to one of your employees?”
Chris McKine: “I have no comment.”
Kevin Ozebek: “Do you regret sending him any of those text messages?”
Chris McKine: “Yes, I regretted everything I did.”
We also wanted to speak to Mayor Ashira Mohammed.
An excavator appeared right before the mayor arrived. We walked around it and asked questions over the sound of the engine.
Kevin Ozebek: “Are you familiar with this case?”
Pembroke Park Mayor Ashira Mohammed: “I’m familiar that we have a current investigation going on.”
The mayor then directed us to the town’s attorney, who tells 7News he has no comment, but according to court documents, the town denies Robert’s allegations.
Robert hopes his case will be heard by a jury when the courts reopen.
Copyright 2020 Sunbeam Television Corp. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.