Undisclosed Settlement Reached In Berlin Fire Company Harassment Lawsuit

Undisclosed Settlement Reached In Berlin Fire Company Harassment Lawsuit
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BERLIN – A settlement has been reached in the $8 million harassment lawsuit filed against the Berlin Fire Company by one of its former paramedics.

The case filed by Zackery Tyndall against the Berlin Fire Company and members Bryon Trimble and Derrick Simpson in U.S. District Court was dismissed last week.

“The resolution is confidential,” said Jim Otway, Tyndall’s attorney. “I can state that it was resolved to my client’s satisfaction.”

The closure of the case comes three months after a federal court judge denied a motion to dismiss filed by the attorneys representing the fire company. In her opinion then, Judge Ellen Hollander wrote that the defendants claimed that what Tyndall called harassment was just teasing.

“Defendants do not expressly dispute most of Tyndall’s allegations concerning his coworkers’ conduct,” the opinion reads. “Instead, they provide a bullet-point list of his allegations … and characterize them as ‘teasing and horseplay.’”

David Fitzgerald, president of the Berlin Fire Company (BFC), said this week he could not comment on the case.

“All I can tell you is that the issue has been resolved,” he said.

Tyndall, a longtime member of the fire company, first reported the alleged harassment to town officials in 2012. According to court documents, he was called “gay boy,” “homo” and other derogatory names by his fellow BFC members. He claimed he was criticized constantly and even touched inappropriately. Tyndall took his concerns to town officials because at that time, an agreement between the municipality and the BFC made EMS workers leased employees of the town so they’d be eligible for state retirement and health benefits.

Though town officials recommended certain disciplinary actions after Tyndall came forward, he said the harassment went on. Because of that, the town cut close to $600,000 in funding to the organization in August 2012. That came just days after the fire company terminated the leased employee agreement with the town.

According to court documents, the harassment reached a new level on Dec. 26, 2012, when Tyndall said fire company volunteers refused to help him with the victim of a car accident he was trying to get to the hospital.

“He recalls asking numerous other BFC members for help along the way but received only stares from most of them …,” Hollander’s July opinion states. “Eventually, a state trooper helped Tyndall connect an oxygen tank to a ventilation bag …, two BFC cadets helped him move the passenger into an ambulance … and a Berlin police officer drove the ambulance to the hospital while Tyndall worked with the passenger in the back.”

In spite of Tyndall’s testimony, an investigation by the Maryland Institute for Emergency Medical Services Systems (MIEMSS) found there was no delay in services following the accident. The MIEMSS report, did, however, acknowledge the tension between the town and the fire company.

The accident increased the work-related anxiety Tyndall said he was under. He was fired early in 2013 and took his case to court after receiving a right-to-sue letter from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

About The Author: Charlene Sharpe

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Charlene Sharpe has been with The Dispatch since 2014. A graduate of Stephen Decatur High School and the University of Richmond, she spent seven years with the Delmarva Media Group before joining the team at The Dispatch.