Berlin Fire Company Seeks Harassment Case Dismissal

BERLIN – The attorney representing the Berlin Fire Company has filed a motion to dismiss the most recent harassment lawsuit facing the organization.

Jo Anna Schmidt, the lawyer representing the Berlin Fire Company (BFC), filed a motion to dismiss the U.S. District Court case filed against the organization by former paramedic Jeffrey Dean Oct. 19. The motion claims that Dean, who filed a lawsuit alleging discrimination and harassment last month, waited too long to bring his complaint to court. According to the motion, Dean, who is seeking $500,000, received a “right to sue” letter from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) in February and should have filed his lawsuit within 90 days of receiving it.

“In this case, the right to sue letter was issued by the EEOC on February 23, 2017,” a memorandum accompanying the motion to dismiss reads. “Plaintiff filed suit 202 days later, on September 12, 2017. Plaintiff’s Complaint is devoid of any facts or allegations of ‘extraordinary circumstances’ or ‘wrongful conduct’ by Defendant that prevented him from timely filing his lawsuit.”

The lawsuit filed last month by James Otway, Dean’s attorney, alleges that the fire company violated the protections put forth by the Civil Rights Act of 1964 — which prohibits employers from discriminating against employees — and claims that Dean was the victim of harassment and retaliation for his support of Zack Tyndall, the former BFC member who filed a harassment case against the organization. Tyndall’s case was settled for an undisclosed amount in 2015.

Dean’s lawsuit alleges that when he provided a statement to town officials regarding the harassment Tyndall had been subject to, the harassment was expanded to include him. Dean said the harassment took a toll on his health. After medical leave, BFC officials forced him to undergo a psychiatric evaluation and extensive training before he could return to work. He was eventually fired in 2013, according to the lawsuit filed in September.

The fire company’s motion to dismiss the case states that Dean did not meet the “statutory limitation period” as he did not file within 90 days of receiving notification from the EEOC. The accompanying memorandum states that potential settlement negotiations are not sufficient cause for extending the time in which a lawsuit can be filed.

“Assuming that Plaintiff’s actual reason for not filing a timely complaint was that he thought settlement was possible, the law does not permit equitable tolling under those circumstances,” the memorandum reads.

It goes on to state that Dean has not demonstrated circumstances that would warrant not meeting the 90-day deadline.

“Furthermore, Plaintiff has not plausibly alleged that Defendant engaged in misconduct that caused him to miss the 90 day deadline,” the memorandum states. “As a result Defendant is entitled to dismissal of Plaintiff’s Complaint with prejudice.”

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.