Saturday April 17, 2021

Fired Lincoln City firefighter seeks $2 million jury trial, chief’s firing in discrimination suit

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Former NLFR Fire Chief Doug Kerr, left, and interim chief Rob Dahlman are subjects of a $2 million lawsuit

Fired local firefighter Philip Rilatos has filed a $2 million sex discrimination lawsuit against North Lincoln Fire & Rescue District #1 seeking a jury trial and the firing of interim chief Rob Dahlman.

Court documents filed July 17 in Lincoln County Circuit Court allege sexual discrimination and harassment by several local firefighters and claim “a clear form of retaliatory behavior” against Rialtos, who was fired April 23.

In addition to North Lincoln Fire & Rescue District #1, the complaint names Dahlman, retired Chief Doug Kerr and firefighters Dennis Miles, Eric Maestas and David Bickerdyke as individual defendants.

“These great firefighters and administrators deserve great leadership, and a work environment free of sexual harassment and retaliation. Right now, they do not have that, and haven’t for quite some time,” Rialtos’ attorney, Joshua D. Zantello of the Lincoln City law firm Andrews, Ersoff and Zantello, said. “Our client hopes this case will put the right leadership in place, and correct the culture and climate at North Lincoln Fire District so the District, along with its firefighters and administrators, can continue to move forward and do great things for the community.”

Homepage is seeking comment from NLFR officials, including Dahlman and Fire Marshall Ed Ulrich regarding the alleged May 28, 2018, incident (detailed below).

Kerr put in 35 years of volunteer and career service with NLFR before giving his 90-day notice in November of last year announcing he would retire in late February. Division Chief EMS Coordinator Dahlman was promoted to replace Kerr as chief on an interim basis for a period of one year on March 1.

NLFR Rilatos suit

According to the document, Zantello’s firm is requesting a jury trial on Rialtos’ behalf, and claiming the amount in controversy exceeds the sum of $50,000, therefore not subject to mandatory arbitration.

The suit seeks judgments as follows:

Ordering Defendant FIRE DISTRICT to terminate Defendant DAHLMAN’s
employment; Ordering Defendant FIRE DISTRICT to terminate Defendant MILES’ employment; Ordering Defendant FIRE DISTRICT to issue Defendant MAESTAS a written reprimand, which should be kept in Defendant MAESTAS’ permanent personnel file; Ordering Defendant FIRE DISTRICT to issue Defendant BICKERDYKE a written reprimand, which should be kept in Defendant BICKERDYKE’s permanent personnel file.

As a direct and foreseeable result of Defendants’ discrimination, Plaintiff suffered economic loss from lost wages of at least $126,240. As a direct and foreseeable result of Defendants’ discrimination, Plaintiff suffered non-economic damages including anxiety, worry, distress, embarrassment, humiliation, and loss of esteem valued at not less than $1,873,760.

“Our client has the utmost respect for the firefighting profession, and firefighters,” Zantello said. “North Lincoln Fire District has many outstanding firefighters and administrators, and our client is proud to have served with them.”

CLICK TO VIEW COMPLAINT

NLFR Lawsuit

According to information culled from a report by private investigator D. Craig Stoelk of Stoelk Investigation and Consultation, LLC, of Salem, to Ersoff and Zantello, four incidents of alleged indiscretion in violation of employee policy against a worker occurred:

On May 28, 2018, members of North Lincoln Fire and Rescue District #1 sexually harassed Philip Rilatos by putting up a poster in Mr. Rilatos’ dorm stating “the Homo is here.” They also filled Mr. Rilatos’ dorm with pink balloons and a large number of sanitary napkins with the appearance of being used. North Lincoln Fire and Rescue failed to supervise their employees, failed to enforce sexual harassment training and policies, and failed to resolve the sexual harassment;

On Aug. 21, 2018, following an investigation, D. Craig Stoelk issued a written report finding that the May 28, 2018, incident was sexual harassment and constituted “a violation of the employer’s policy related to harassment.” Mr. Stoelk also found that North Lincoln Fire and Rescue “failed to conduct a proper/thorough harassment investigation as outlined by the employer’s policy.” Mr. Stoelk further found that North Lincoln Fire and Rescue’s “shunning” of Mr. Rilatos after Mr. Rilatos reported the May 28, 2018 incident “is a clear form of retaliatory behavior;”

On April 18, 2019, after months of repeated oral and written requests, as well as a public records request, North Lincoln Fire and Rescue finally allowed Mr. Rilatos to examine the August 21, 2018 report via his attorney, but would not allow Mr. Rilatos to retain a copy. April 18, 2019, is the first day Mr. Rilatos had knowledge (1) that his sexual harassment claim from May 28, 2018, was substantiated; (2) that North Lincoln Fire and Rescue’s own investigation was improper; and (3) that North Lincoln Fire and Rescue’s retaliatory behavior against Mr. Rilatos was substantiated;

On April 23, 2019, North Lincoln Fire and Rescue terminated Mr. Rilatos’ employment as further retaliation for reporting a substantiated sexual harassment claim.

NLFR Lawsuit

CLICK HERE TO VIEW MEMORANDUM

CLICK HERE TO VIEW TORT CLAIM NOTICE

A tort claim, in common law jurisdictions, is a civil wrong that causes a claimant to suffer loss or harm resulting in legal liability for the person who commits the act. It can include the intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligence, financial losses, injuries and invasion of privacy, among other things.

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Justin Werner & Jim Fossumhttps://lincolncityhomepage.com
This article was written and edited to comply with Associated Press style and professional journalism standards by Homepage's publisher and executive editor.

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2 COMMENTS

  1. Not that I’m condoning the actions but I’m confused I thought all but about 2 positions were volunteer at our fire department

    • 2 years ago a tax measure was passed to hire 12 firefighters and an EMS coordinator. That coordinator is now the interim chief.

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