Columbus Settles Sexual Harassment Suit for $250k

The City of Columbus has agreed to settle a sexual harassment lawsuit brought by city firefighter over her treatment while in the fire academy in 2019. The suit was originally filed in Franklin County Common Pleas Court, and later removed to US District Court for the Southern District of Ohio.

At the center of the case was the behavior of Battalion Chief Joe Richard, who was in charge of the training academy. Richard was named as a defendant in the suit and accused of attempting to coerce sexual favors from the victim. Attached below is a copy of the amended complaint that outlines the plaintiff’s allegations.

Richard was suspended while an investigation into his conduct unfolded. Three additional female employees came forward alleging he made sexually inappropriate comments to them as well. Richard opted to retire and the city refused to provide him with legal counsel.

The settlement calls for Richard to personally pay $25,000, with the city picking up the $225,000 balance to round out the settlement at $250,000.

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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