Oregon Fire Department Counters Harassment Lawsuit Allegations

An Oregon fire department has answered a sexual harassment and retaliation lawsuit filed in July by a male firefighter by asserting that the firefighter was not the target of an inappropriate  prank, and that he voluntarily quit his job following an off-the-job injury.

Phillip Walter Rilatos, III filed suit against the North Lincoln Fire & Rescue District #1, two chiefs, and three of his colleagues claiming he was sexually harassed and then retaliated against after he complained. Rilatos alleges he was terminated by the department in April, 2019, days after being shown a copy of the investigation report in the harassment incident.

The fire department’s answer asserts that:

  • on or about May 27, 2018, a prank was played on a firefighter other than plaintiff
  • plaintiff witnessed the aftermath of the prank
  • in August of 2018, an investigation was performed, which found the prank constituted a violation of NLFR’s policies
  • discipline was imposed on NLFR employees as a result of the findings of the investigation
  • plaintiff last worked for NLFR on September 7, 2018
  • following an off-work injury and a series of medical and personal leaves, plaintiff abandoned his job on or about April 23, 2019.

The fire department also alleges that Rilatos claims under Oregon state law ORS 659A.199 should be dismissed because ORS 659A.199 not apply to North Lincoln Fire & Rescue District #1 “due to its status as a public body”.

The Lincoln City Homepage provides additional details into the alleged sexually harassing incident, along with a copy of a file memo prepared by Rilatos’ attorney, Josh Zantello, after he was allowed to review a confidential investigative report into the harassment incident that precipitated the claims.

Here is a copy of the memo:

Here is the fire department’s answer:

Here is the original complaint:

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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