United States Sues Westchester County Town, Village, Firefighters
The United States has sued a town and village in the Hudson Valley as well as two local fire departments.
On Wednesday, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Damian Williams, announced that the United States has filed a lawsuit against the Town and Village of Harrison, New York as well as two Harrison fire departments, the Harrison Volunteer Fire Department No. 1 and Harrison Fire Department.
The United States Sues Village/Town of Harrison, New York
Officials allege the fire department unlawfully discriminated against a woman firefighter. The fire departments are accused of creating a hostile work environment and firing the woman after she reported a male senior firefighter harassed and stalked her.
“Sexual harassment in the workplace is abhorrent. 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," U.S. Attorney Damian Williams said.
Alleged Sexual Harassment at Harrison Fire Department
As alleged in the complaint filed in the White Plains federal court:
Angela Bommarito joined the Harrison Fire Department in 2015. During her first month on the job, Henry Mohr, a senior firefighter, allegedly pressured her with unwanted sexual advances.
Mohr is also accused of harassing and stalking Bommarito, including repeatedly following her and calling her on numerous occasions.
Bommarito reported Mohr's alleged actions to leaders from the Harrison Volunteer Fire Department No. 1 and Harrison Fire Department, officials say.
Harrison, New York Police Allegedly Don't Take Action
Bommarito then went to the Harrison Police Department when fire department leaders did nothing, officials say.
Harrison's then-police chief told Mohr that Bommarito’s presence at the firehouse was a “temptation,” which was “hard to resist sometimes,” and that the police chief hoped to "broker a deal with the Town to make sure this whole thing dies” so that he could get Mohr “out of this situation," according to the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York.
Bommarito was later forced to sign a resignation letter, which was prepared by the police chief after the police chief threatened to arrest her and report her other relationships to fire department leaders, officials say.
Female Harrison Firefighter Forced To Resign
Bommarito quickly had second thoughts about resigning. She tried to withdraw the resignation, but the Harrison Fire Department proceeded with the termination of her employment.
Mohr is accused of continuing to harass and stalk Bommarito after she left the fire department. Mohr was later arrested for his harassment of Bommarito and pleaded guilty to harassment.
Title VII allows the Department of Justice to take action in the United States District Court against the Town and Village of Harrison as well as the Harrison Fire Department.
The United States’ complaint seeks declaratory and injunctive relief, as well as compensatory damages for Bommarito, officials say.