Fired FDNY Probie Sues Over Harassment By Colleagues

An FDNY probie who washed out during his first year, has filed suit alleging he was subjected to an assortment of outrageous conduct by his coworkers.

Michael Tronia filed suit last Friday in US District Court for the Southern District of New York alleging discrimination under federal, state and local law; assault and battery; retaliation; and Constitutional violations of his due process and equal protection rights. Tronia claims he was subjected to harassment because he is Hispanic and because coworkers suspected he was gay.

The complaint names seventeen defendants: the city of New York, FDNY; nine firefighters: Thomas Bambury, Ryan Brito, John Olsen, Patrick Bouman, Neil Ottrando, [FNU] Belkham, Greg Hansen, Devin McGrath, [FNU] Capelli, , and Steven Rogers; three lieutenants: Lieutenant [FNY] Didio, Lt. Steven Frolenza, and Lt. Joseph Monferato; two chiefs: Anthony De Vita and Michael Masaucchi; and Fire Commissioner Daniel Nigro.

The allegations have been widely discussed in the news and social media already. Rather than summarize those allegations here, let’s look at the actual language from the complaint:

  • This case involves the systematic unlawful sexual orientation discrimination, racial discrimination, national origin discrimination, gender discrimination, assault and battery, hostile work environment, retaliation and unlawful termination of Plaintiff Troina by the Defendants.
  • Plaintiff Troina was singled out time and time again on account of his race and national origin as a Hispanic American male as well as perceived homosexuality.
  • In or around November 2015, Firefighters KLIPP, FRANZRAB, DEBIASE and Defendant ROGERS, made Plaintiff eat orange juice that he brought for his breakfast with a fork from 12 different plates. These Defendants forced Plaintiff to wash the plates afterwards.
  • In or around March 2016, Defendants McGRATH and BAMBURY discriminated against Plaintiff when they told Plaintiff that he could not do the job like the other white firefighters could because Plaintiff is of Hispanic national origin and race.
  • In or around April 2016, Defendant OLSEN discriminated against Plaintiff when he tried to coerce Plaintiff to join him and the other Defendants to a strip club.
  • When Plaintiff refused, OLSEN told Plaintiff to “stop being a fucking loser” and called Plaintiff a “faggot”.
  • Defendants would regularly harass Plaintiff by encouraging him to have sex
  • with a stripper.
  • Defendant OLSEN referred to Plaintiff as a “closet homo” for the duration of his employment with the Defendants.
  • On or about June 15, 2016, Plaintiff was told by fire worker Porcello that other fire workers, including officers, were calling Plaintiff a “faggot” and “gay” during a FDNY Memorial volleyball outing.
  • Thereafter, Plaintiff was purposefully excluded by all named Defendants from the day’s activities due to the discriminatory belief that Plaintiff was homosexual.
  • On or about the next day, June 16, 2016, when Plaintiff arrived at work, Firefighter ALBERTI told Defendant BELKHAM to “Do an impression of Troina.”
  • Plaintiff watched as BELKHAM impersonated him saying, “Hey my name is Troina, I’m a faggot and I’ve never seen a girl’s pussy before.”
  • While doing the impression Defendant BELKHAM was flailing his arms around and basing the impression of Plaintiff on negative stereotypical caricatures of hyper-feminine homosexual males.
  • Firefighter ALBERTI and Defendant BOUMAN watched, laughed, and otherwise actively aided and abetted the discriminatory actions against Plaintiff.
  • Plaintiff notified Defendant Lieutenant Joseph MONFERATO about the degrading and discriminatory incident.
  • Defendant Lieutenant MONFERATO then told Plaintiff that the discrimination targeting Plaintiff’s national origin and sexual orientation was “In good fun, and to not take it too hard”.
  • In or around June 2016, Defendant OLSEN found out that Plaintiff competed in video game tournaments. Defendant OLSEN told everyone in the fire house. This escalated the discrimination and fostered a pervasively hostile work environment towards Plaintiff.
  • In addition, Defendant OLSEN and ROGERS and Firefighter KLIPP called Plaintiff “a loser with no life” and that he “can’t be a retarded kid forever.”
  • In or around the summer of 2016, when the game “Pokemon Go” launched, Firefighters KLIPP and FRANZREB and Defendant BRITO would gather in the kitchen and berate Plaintiff over whether he “was going to go play some ‘Pokemanz’ Go, because he has no life.”
  • A few days later Plaintiff came in to work to find a fake sign-up sheet for an event called “Pokemon Go Hunting with Troina and his Faggot Friends.”
  • In or around mid-July 2016, Defendant ROGERS called Plaintiff “a complete lost retard” in front of all the fire workers in the house.
  • By promoting such foul behavior, as Head-of-House, Defendant ROGERS displayed his approval of the discrimination Plaintiff suffered every day of his employment with the Defendants.
  • Soon thereafter, Defendant OLSEN and Firefighter ALBERTI called Plaintiff “autistic” and “retarded,” discriminating against Plaintiff based on perceived disability.
  • Plaintiff would have panic attacks on account of all the discrimination he faced at work.
  • At all material times, Plaintiff lived in constant fear of the retaliation that would inevitably follow.
  • Plaintiff suffered severe mental trauma during his employment with the Defendants. Plaintiff became depressed every time he had to work.
  • From in or around December of 2015, until his unlawful termination, Plaintiff would sit in his car and cry prior to beginning work; fearful of what he would be put through that day.
  • On or about August 16, 2016, due to the constant ridicule and discriminatory belief that Plaintiff was homosexual, Plaintiff suffered a severe anxiety attack and checked himself into the Counseling Service Unit of the FDNY.
  • On or about October 12, 2016, Plaintiff’s car was vandalized with peanut butter in every door handle, oil and soap was plastered over the entire car, garbage and papers were smashed into the windows while ceiling tiles, boxes and wires were situated to blocked access to his vehicle all around.
  • On or about December 18, 2016, Captain KEITH gave Plaintiff an “extended probation” document to sign, which stipulated several false claims against Plaintiff.
  • On or about December 21, 2016, Plaintiff was terminated by Defendants DEVITO and MASAUCCHI, even though the FDNY union delegate was not notified that Plaintiff was there.
  • Plaintiff was unlawfully terminated without any due process in retaliation for making protected complaints.

Here is a copy of the complaint: Michael Troina v FDNY

About Curt Varone

Curt Varone has over 40 years of fire service experience and 30 as a practicing attorney licensed in both Rhode Island and Maine. His background includes 29 years as a career firefighter in Providence (retiring as a Deputy Assistant Chief), as well as volunteer and paid on call experience. He is the author of two books: Legal Considerations for Fire and Emergency Services, (2006, 2nd ed. 2011, 3rd ed. 2014) and Fire Officer's Legal Handbook (2007), and is a contributing editor for Firehouse Magazine writing the Fire Law column.
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