gavel.gif (3462 bytes) Philadelphia firefighter awarded $1.24M in sexual harassment case

The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District in Robert C. Bianchi vs. City of Philadelphia, et al., recently awarded $1.24 million in damages to Robert Bianchi for being fired after he complained that his employees in the Philadelphia Fire Department were sexually harassing him.

After being assigned to lead Platoon A at Ladder Company No. 2 at Fourth and Arch Streets, Robert Bianchi imposed new work rules, which were not well received. Following the changes, members of the company began sexually harassing him, putting gay-themed playing cards and magazines on his desk and mailing and phoning in threats. This lasted for nearly two years, and the fire department, ignoring his complaints, first transferred Bianchi and ultimately fired him. The City, represented by Deputy City Solicitors Michael Holmes and Stephen Miller, claimed that they transferred Bianchi because he was mentally unstable, and fired him because he didn�t return to active duty after medical leave in July 1998. Bianchi�s counsel, Andrew F. Erba of Williams Cuker & Berezofsky, argued that his emotional problems resulted from the retaliation.

The jury found that the City of Philadelphia retaliated against Bianchi under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. They also agreed that the City had a policy of denying employees the right to a hearing prior to separation, which caused the City to violate Bianchi�s right to procedural due process under the 14th amendment. Bianchi received a $1.24 million award, including: Back Pay ($225,000); Front Pay ($512,500); and Pain and Suffering ($500,000).

The jury was presided over by U.S. District Judge Anita B. Brody. 


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