Firefighter sues Fairfax County for sexual harassment

WASHINGTON — A Fairfax County firefighter is filing a federal civil rights suit against the department, claiming she was sexually harassed for years.

The filing comes just a month after another female firefighter took her life after she was cyber bullied by people who claimed to be her colleagues.

At the time, Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department Chief Richard Bowers said he’d look into harassment within the department.

A firefighter with Fairfax County since 2005, Magaly Hernandez filed her civil rights suit Friday, May 6, and claimed years of sexual harassment, unnecessary transfers and lack of accountability of supervisors within the department.

“Once she complained about the harassment, she was transferred to a different station, which in the fire department sends a message she’s a problem employee,” Hernandez’s attorney Ellen Renaud said.

Court documents outline years of abuse starting in October 2013, when she was transferred to a new fire station under the supervision of Captain Jon Bruley.

“Bruley’s harassing behavior included physically restricting Hernandez’s movements, frequently invading her personal space and touching her, making repeated unwanted sexual advances and comments towards her, demanding hugs, and tracking her movements including when she used the restroom,” according to the suit.

Hernandez continues to work at the department.

The documents cite other incidents including an occasion where several male firefighters duct taped a female firefighter to her chair, and a male lieutenant threatened a female firefighter with violence without being disciplined.

“What we’re seeking in this lawsuit is to put an end to the regular and systematic harassment of women in the fire department,” Renaud said.

In a statement, Fairfax County said it cannot comment on the suit.

“We cannot comment on a pending lawsuit. However, we want to assure our community that harassment of any kind is not tolerated by Fairfax County. Fairfax County has written policies that prohibit harassment, and all county employees are required to participate in sexual harassment and hostile work environment training. Allegations of harassment are taken seriously and fully investigated,” county spokesman Tony Castrilli said in the statement.

The Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department declined to comment separately from the county statement.

Megan Cloherty

WTOP Investigative Reporter Megan Cloherty primarily covers breaking news, crime and courts.

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