When most people think about sexual harassment, they think of an employer making sexual advances toward a subordinate, or employees making lewd comments or gestures to co-workers. However, even in a volunteer setting sexual harassment can take place, and as our New York readers will learn, litigation can take place when it occurs.
A 19-year-old woman is suing the volunteer fire department where she used to be a member. The suit includes allegations of slander, intentional emotional distress, and several other charges. The suit states that the woman was ejected from the department in retaliation for expressing her concerns about how she was treated by her fellow firefighters.
According to the lawsuit, the problems began when a male volunteer firefighter touched her inappropriately. When she slapped him, he then made a comment about her breasts. The suit also alleges that the fire chief participated in conduct that caused the woman emotional distress.
A while later, the woman was informed that she needed to meet with the board because allegations of misconduct were brought against her by a “special needs child.” When the woman requested the meeting be changed to a date when she could attend, the board held the meeting without her, and unanimously voted to eject her. The board failed to provide any evidence of the misconduct, including the identity of the person who filed a complaint.
The volunteer fire department denies any wrongdoing on their part. A requested money amount was not disclosed. The purpose the lawsuit is the hold the fire department accountable for the actions taken by the department. Anyone who believes that he or she is the target of sexual harassment should speak with a qualified legal professional to determine if filing a similar suit is a sensible idea.
The Register Citizen, “Riverton Volunteer Fire Company being sued after alleged sexual harassment” Jessica Glenza, Sep. 25, 2013