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Donohoe removed from lawsuit against fire company

BERLIN—An amended complaint filed
against the Berlin Fire Company by a former paramedic and volunteer firefighter
on Sept. 16, removed one plaintiff from a list individuals he had charged with
either committing or failing to halt workplace harassment and intimidation.

The documents also added
additional details about the allegations to an ongoing $8 million lawsuit.

In August Zachery Tyndall, named the fire
company, its president, David Fitzgerald, current employee and Tyndall’s former
emergency medical service supervisor Norris Phillip Donohoe Sr., volunteer
fireman and Assistant Chief Derek Simpson and volunteer fireman and former
Chief Bryon Trimble, in a federal lawsuit for their alleged roles in a campaign
of sexual orientation-based harassment and intimidation.

Lead attorney James Otway,
of the Salisbury firm Otway, Russo & Rommel, said during a Sept. 24
interview that Donohue had been removed from the list of plaintiffs in the
amended documents.

Otway explained the reason.
“From our perspective, his involvement was less than that of the others and we
wanted to focus on those whom we believe were most culpable,” he said, adding
that Donohue had been absent for some the period in which the abuse occurred.

The amended complaint also
included detailed allegations of unwanted physical conduct by some of the
individual who remained on the list.

Robin R. Cockey,of the
Salisbury firm Cockey, Brennan & Maloney, P.C., had filed a motion to
dismiss Tyndall’s complaint against Donohoe in the lawsuit on Sept. 3. Cockey had
previously represented
Donohoe in a $200,000 wrongful
termination lawsuit against the Town of Berlin that employed him after he was
relieved of his duties as Berlin’s Emergency Medical Services Supervisor in May
2012 because town officials had received multiple complaints of workplace
harassment against members of his staff. In March, the Circuit Court for Worcester County dismissed that case by granting the town’s motion to dismiss an
appeal of Donohoe’s claim.

In his motion to
dismiss Donohoe from Tyndall’s lawsuit, Cockey made the legal arguments that supervisors were not individually
liable for violations of Title VII; that Title VII does not provide protection
from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or perceived sexual
orientation; and that the complaint lacked any “factual allegations of “extreme
and outrageous” conduct necessary to state a claim for intentional infliction
of emotional distress against Mr. Donohoe.”

As a result of the amended complaint, Cockey said Donohoe was “No longer
a defendant and no longer being sued. We are pleased that he has been
vindicated.”

The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court
for the District of Maryland. In it, Tyndall has asked for $2 million in
compensatory damages and $6 million in punitive damages, along with legal costs
and other expenses. He has also sought compensation for violations of his civil
rights under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, for lost past and future wages,
impairment of earning capacity, emotional distress, humiliation and past and
future medical expenses and seeking punitive damages from the individuals for
their alleged “willful, wanton, oppressive and malicious conduct.”

A second paramedic and
firefighter, Jeff Dean, has also filed a claim against the fire company with
the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. In it he has alleged being
targeted for retaliatory harassment and intimidation that he said stemmed from
his attempts to stand up for Tyndall, who was his work partner at the time, and
others whom he said were being subjected to gender, racial and sexual
orientation-based abuse.