The United States has filed a lawsuit against a Westchester County municipality and its fire department, alleging that they discriminated and retaliated against a female firefighter who reported that a male senior firefighter had harassed and stalked her.
The lawsuit was filed against the Town/Village of Harrison, Fire District Two of Harrison, and the Harrison Fire Department, according to an announcement on Wednesday, June 8, from Damian Williams, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York.
Williams said the US is alleging that the town and fire department discriminated against Angela Bommarito on the basis of sex by creating a hostile work environment and firing her after she reported senior firefighter Henry Mohr.
“Sexual harassment in the workplace is abhorrent," Williams said. "All employers, including government agencies, must ensure that sexual harassment is prohibited—not ignored or followed by illegal employment actions against victims, as we allege occurred at the Town of Harrison. This suit seeks to remedy the civil rights violations committed by the Harrison Fire Department and the Town of Harrison, and ensure that Harrison protects its employees’ rights in the future.”
Bommarito joined the Harrison Fire Department in 2015, and in her first month of the job, Mohr pressured her with unwanted sexual advances, according to the US Attorney's Office.
He also later stalked her, following her and calling her on numerous occasions, and he used sexually demeaning expletives to describe her in front of other firefighters, the announcement said.
When the town and fire department leaders learned about the harassment, officials did not take any employment action against Mohr, Williams said.
The US Attorney's Office said Bommarito filed a report with the Harrison Police Department, and the then-police chief told Mohr in an interaction that was recorded that Bommarito being in the firehouse was a "temptation" that was "hard to resist sometimes."
He also said he wanted to get Mohr "out of this situation" and broker a deal with the town to "make sure this whole thing dies," the report said.
The police chief then threatened to arrest Bommarito and report her other relationships to Harrison's Fire Commissioners, and she signed a resignation letter the police chief had prepared, Williams said.
The US Attorney's Office said Bommarito later tried to withdraw her resignation, but the fire department proceeded with the termination of her employment.
After she left the fire department, Mohr continued harassing and stalking her, and he was eventually arrested for doing so, the US Attorney's Office said.
He pleaded guilty to second-degree harassment, Williams said.
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