BFC Case Back Open After Talks Break Down

BERLIN — Less than a month after a confidential settlement was reached in the $8 million harassment suit filed against the Berlin Fire Company by one of its former paramedics, at least one of the parties has apparently not lived up to the agreement as the case was reopened this week.

In August 2013, former Berlin firefighter and EMT Zachary Tyndall, through his attorney James Otway, filed suit in U.S. District Court alleging a long pattern of harassment and intimidation carried out by the department’s leadership over his perceived sexual orientation. For over three years, the case trudged through the legal process and was amended several times before the parties reached a confidential settlement on Oct. 7, the terms of which have still not been made public.

Following the settlement in early October, Otway said he was bound not to reveal the terms, but did allude to a favorable outcome for his client.

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

A little less than a month later, Otway and Tyndall are apparently not satisfied with the implementation of the settlement. Last Thursday, Otway filed a motion to reopen the case.

“On October 7, 2015, the parties attended a settlement conference with Magistrate Judge Gallagher and entered into a confidential settlement agreement, and on October 7, the court dismissed this action with prejudice,” the motion to reopen reads. “The parties have been able to agree upon the material terms of the release. The parties have not been able to agree upon the non-material terms of the release that were not previously agreed upon. A release has not been executed by the parties and a settlement has not been consummated.”

On the same day, Judge Ellen Hollander ordered the case to be reopened. The suit alleges the BFC and the named individual defendants carried out a “deliberate and conscious effort” to harass and intimidate Tyndall in an attempt to drive him out of the department because of the defendant’s perception of Tyndall’s sexual orientation. The alleged pattern of abuse included repeated derogatory slurs and a pattern of offenses aimed at driving Tyndall to quit.
Tyndall alleges in the complaint the defendants made a deliberate effort to harass and intimidate him based on the perception he was effeminate and did not conform to their gender stereotypes.