Cecil fire company discriminated, says state commission

August 22, 1991|By Michael K. Burns

The state Human Relations Commission has charged the Rising Sun volunteer fire department with sex discrimination in suspending a female ambulance aide who complained of sexual assault by a co-worker.

The commission said yesterday that it has been unable to informally resolve the issue with the Cecil County fire company, which suspended Paula J. Haavistola in March 1990 after she complained of the alleged incident and threatened to file criminal charges.

The volunteer firefighter accused by Ms. Haavistola was acquitted of fourth-degree sexual assault in March by the Cecil County Circuit Court, reversing a District Court judge's finding. He had been suspended by the fire company, and he resigned.

The Human Relations Commission charged that the community fire company retaliated against her for taking the complaint to court. It seeks her reinstatement in good standing and a ban on future sex discrimination by the fire company.

Roger N. Powell, lawyer for the fire company, said Ms. Haavistola was not employed by the company and that the jury trial had demonstrated she "has repeatedly lied" about the incident.

Ms. Haavistola is also pursuing a multi-million-dollar civil lawsuit in federal court against the fire company, its governing board and the alleged assailant. Although the volunteer job was unpaid, she argued that it provided essential training for her to eventually obtain paid employment as an emergency medical technician.

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