Fairfax County Firefighter Files Sexual Harassment Suit

On the heels of the suicide of Fairfax County firefighter Nicole Mittendorff that raised questions about sex-based cyber-bullying, a female firefighter has filed suit in federal court claiming sexual harassment and retaliation.

Magaly Hernandez filed suit on May 6, 2016 claiming not only that was she sexually harassed by her captain, but she was retaliated against when she reported his behavior.

According to the complaint, Hernandez’s problems began in October 2013 when she was assigned to Station 42 under the command of Captain Jon Bruley. Quoting from the complaint:

  • Shortly after Hernandez was placed under Bruley’s supervision, Bruley began to sexually harass her and create a hostile work environment for her because of her sex.
  • Bruley’s harassing behavior included physically restricting Hernandez’s movements, frequently invading her personal space and touching her, making repeated unwanted sexual advances and comments toward her, demanding hugs, and tracking her movements including when she used the restroom.
  • On April 29, 2014, Hernandez complained about Bruley’s sexual harassment and the hostile work environment he created. Battalion Chief Cheri Zosh, Bruley’s direct supervisor, recommended that Bruley face disciplinary action for his behavior, as well as a psychological evaluation.
  • Defendant’s Medical Director, Dr. Don Stewart, also recommended that Bruley be psychologically evaluated and advised he would arrange for it.
  • Despite this, Defendant took no corrective action against Bruley.
  • Hernandez remained under Bruley’s supervision for three months after she complained. Emboldened, Bruley’s harassment of Hernandez intensified. He ostracized Hernandez from her colleagues and utterly ignored her, even though he was her direct supervisor.
  • Bruley also spread a rumor that Hernandez was having an inappropriate sexual relationship with Battalion Chief Zosh because she had attempted to address his sexual harassment of Hernandez, and made a baseless hostile work environment complaint against Hernandez.
  • These actions made Hernandez’s work environment more hostile, not least because a Deputy Chief has repeated the false rumor.
  • Instead of taking corrective action against Bruley, Defendant penalized Hernandez for complaining.

According to Hernandez, she was later accused of trumped-up workplace violence charges because she “chided” a coworker who suffered a hurt knee during a basketball game.

Here is a copy of the complaint: Hernandez v Fairfaix County Fire Rescue