Four Washington Firefighters Claim City Failed to Prevent Sexual Harassment by Instructor

Four lawsuits have been filed against the City of Everett by firefighters who claim they were sexually harassed by a fire academy instructor who is already being sued for sexual harassment. The four male firefighters filed separate suits in Snohomish County Superior Court accusing the city of failing to address harassment perpetrated by Chau Nguyen.

Nguyen is already facing a suit filed last November by a South County firefighter. The suit claims that Nguyen harassed him and other academy recruits while they were in training at the Snohomish County Fire Training Academy in 2019. Nguyen has since resigned from the Everett Fire Department. He had been a firefighter with the City of Everett since 2018. He was apparently allowed to serve as an instructor at the county academy despite only having been on the job in Everett for one year. More on that suit.

Copies of the four complaints are not available, but all were filed the same day by the law firm of Pfau Cochran Vertetis Amala. The Seattle Times quoted from the complaints as follows:

  • “Nguyen’s sexual harassment of subordinates, recruit firefighters, and employees was severe and pervasive.”
  • “[The city] failed to take reasonably prompt and adequate corrective action to address Nguyen’s behavior.”
  • “[Nguyen] took advantage of subordinate, probationary employees who were less likely to complain to management given their employment status.”

The Times also reported some of the complaints contains reports of sexual remarks, flirtations, sexual advances, and physical contact of a sexual nature.  The city reportedly failed to promptly recognize and stop the harm from occurring. All four men allege they suffer from emotional distress, anxiety and trauma. More on the story.

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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