Defendants in a $2 million discrimination lawsuit against North Lincoln Fire & Rescue District #1 maintain a former firefighter was not the intended victim of a sexually explicit prank and abandoned his job following an off-work injury and several medical and personal leaves.
Philip Rialtos, who has filed a multimillion dollar complaint alleging he was terminated as a form of retaliation for reporting a sexual harassment claim, is seeking a jury trial and the firing of NLFR interim Chief Rob Dahlman.
Counterclaims in court documents filed Wednesday, Aug. 21, by the Law Office of Brett Mersereau, maintain that defendants NLFR, Dahlman, former chief Doug Kerr and firefighters Dennis Miles, Eric Maestas and David Bickerdyke admit:
— The plaintiff witnessed the aftermath of a prank intended for another firefighter on about May 27, 2018;
— An August 2018 investigation deemed the prank in violation of NLFR policies and that discipline was imposed on employees as a result of the findings;
— The plaintiff last worked for NLFR on Sept. 7, 2018, and voluntarily left his job following an off-work injury and series of medical and personal absences.
The lawsuit maintains the plaintiff’s employment claim is subject to dismissal because the statute does not apply due to NLFR’s status as a public body.
The papers further indicate that the defendants “deny each and every other allegation, matter and thing set forth in plaintiff’s complaint.”
Court documents filed in Lincoln County Circuit Court by the firm Ersoff and Zantello on Rialtos’ behalf allege sexual discrimination and harassment by several local firefighters and claim “a clear form of retaliatory behavior” against Rialtos, who the papers claim was fired April 23.
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.
According to a report by private investigator D. Craig Stoelk of Stoelk Investigation and Consultation, LLC, of Salem, 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.