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East Bay FD Sued for Ignoring Harassment Complaints

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East Bay FD Sued for Ignoring Harassment Complaints

A longtime employee of the Contra Costa County Fire Protection District (CCCFPD) has filed a lawsuit against the agency, claiming its leaders repeatedly ignored her complaints that a supervisor sexually harassed her for years.

According to the lawsuit, the employee’s supervisor, Robert Marshall, started making inappropriate sexual comments toward her and touching her without her permission shortly after he was promoted to fire prevention captain in 2011.

After Marshall was promoted to fire marshall in 2014, he allegedly started “standing in front of Plaintiff’s car to prevent her from leaving, locking Plaintiff in the backseat of his (fire district-issued) vehicle, attempting to scare her and becoming inappropriately angry at Plaintiff.”

In the beginning of 2016, Marshall reportedly “snuck behind Plaintiff while she was at her desk at work, wrapped a metal chain around Plaintiff’s neck and pulled the chain tightly against her throat.”

When the employee told her direct supervisor Captain George Laing about the harassment, he reported the incidents to Lewis Broschard, who assumed the position of fire chief earlier this month. Broschard didn’t file a workplace violence report against Marshall and didn’t take any actions to protect the employee from further conduct from Marshall.

In January 2017, the employee was promoted to a captain position and Marshall became her immediate supervisor. He continued to harass her and allegedly threatened to keep her from passing the probationary period and got rid of her previous position so that the district would fire her if she failed.

In March, the district initiated an investigation against Marshall after the employee met with Broschard and Denise Cannon, a person in the human resources department. The following month, the employee received an email from Cannon stating that the investigation substantiated the allegations against him. The employee claims that she doesn’t believe he received substantive disciplinary action after the investigation.

The employee went on medical leave because of the stress she suffered from the harassment, according to the lawsuit. She filed a workers’ compensation claim, which was accepted by the district.

In May 2017, the district offered her an option to move into a captain position under an alternative work plan agreement.

Last year, the EMS and Fire Prevention divisions moved into the same building, so the employee’s office was next to Marshall’s. When she told leaders about this, they put her two doors down from him instead.

The employee seeks unspecified special and general damages from the lawsuit.

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