United States Sues The Town/Village Of Harrison, New York And Its Fire Department For Discrimination And Sexual Harassment

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FILE PHOTO: Signage is seen at the United States Department of Justice headquarters in Washington, D.C.

Damian Williams, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, announced today that the United States has filed a lawsuit against the TOWN/VILLAGE OF HARRISON (“HARRISON”), the FIRE DISTRICT TWO OF HARRISON, and the HARRISON VOLUNTEER FIRE DEPARTMENT NO. 1 OF HARRISON, N.Y. d/b/a HARRISON FIRE DEPARTMENT (“HARRISON FIRE DEPARTMENT”), alleging discrimination on the basis of sex and retaliation in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (“Title VII”). HARRISON and the HARRISON FIRE DEPARTMENT are alleged to have unlawfully discriminated against a female firefighter by creating a hostile work environment and terminating her employment after she reported that a male senior firefighter had harassed and stalked her.

U.S. Attorney Damian Williams said:  “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.”

As alleged in the complaint filed in the White Plains federal court:

In 2015, Angela Bommarito (“Bommarito”) joined the HARRISON Fire Department. In her first month on the job, a senior firefighter, Henry Mohr (“Mohr”), pressured Bommarito with unwanted sexual advances. Mohr later also harassed and stalked Bommarito, including by repeatedly following her and calling her on numerous occasions. Further, Mohr used sexually demeaning expletives to describe Bommarito in front of other firefighters. HARRISON and HARRISON FIRE DEPARTMENT leaders learned of Mohr’s harassment, including through reports by Bommarito. After those officials failed to take any employment action against Mohr and the harassment persisted, Bommarito filed a report with HARRISON’s Police Department. In response, HARRISON’s then-Police Chief told Mohr, in a recorded interaction, that Bommarito’s presence at the firehouse was a “temptation,” which was “hard to resist sometimes,” and that the Police Chief “want[ed] to broker a deal with the Town to make sure this whole thing dies” so that he could get Mohr “out of this situation.” Bommarito subsequently signed a resignation letter prepared by the Police Chief after he threatened to arrest her and report her other relationships to HARRISON’s Fire Commissioners. Soon after, Bommarito attempted to withdraw the resignation, but the HARRISON FIRE DEPARTMENT proceeded with the termination of her employment.

Following Bommarito’s departure from the Harrison Fire Department, Mohr continued to harass and stalk her. Mohr was eventually arrested for his harassment of Bommarito and pled guilty to harassment in the second degree.  A family court judge also entered an order of protection against Mohr.

Title VII authorizes the Department of Justice to commence an action in the United States District Court against HARRISON and the HARRISON FIRE DEPARTMENT to remedy discrimination on the basis of sex and retaliation in violation of Title VII. The United States’ complaint seeks declaratory and injunctive relief, as well as compensatory damages on behalf of Bommarito.

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This case is being handled by the Office’s Civil Rights Unit. Assistant United States Attorneys Charles S. Jacob and Natasha W. Teleanu are in charge of the case.