Delaware Firefighter Awarded in Harassment Suit

Firefighter alleged incidents created a hostile work environment.


WILMINGTON -- The city of Wilmington has paid a female firefighter $78,000 to settle her federal sexual harassment and retaliation civil lawsuit.

Neither side would discuss the settlement Thursday and the court docket noted only that both sides had agreed to drop the matter.

Steven F. Mones, the attorney for firefighter Elizabeth A. Huovinen, would only say it was an "amicable resolution." City Communications Director John Rago said they had no comment.

The city provided the settlement amount, $78,261.84, only after receiving a Freedom of Information request from The News Journal.

Huovinen, who is still on the city's firefighting force, joined the department as Elizabeth Taylor in 2002.

She filed suit in June in U.S. District Court alleging a number of improper incidents that created a hostile work environment, including a male firefighter repeatedly exposing himself to her and male firefighters watching pornography on the job.

Huovinen is one of only six female firefighters in the professional department, according to the lawsuit.

When she complained about the pornography, according to court papers, a male co-worker entered her sleeping area "and jumped on the bed on top of her to simulate a sex act."

Her lawsuit alleges the officer who harassed her was then promoted to be her superior and continued to harass, humiliate and spread rumors about her.

Huovinen said when she complained to a superior officer she was told to "get a thicker skin."

After continuing to pursue her complaints, Huovinen charged that several weeks later she was abruptly transferred to a less desirable posting that limited her opportunities for overtime.

In addition to damages, Huovinen had asked the court to reinstate her to her old platoon.

Rago said no disciplinary action had been taken against any employee as a result of Huovinen's charges.

Republished with permission from The News Journal