Firefighter Files Suit for Harassment, Hostile Work Environment

A Londonderry Firefighter is suing the Town for damages related to the handling of alleged harassment and a hostile work environment created by her co-workers and superiors.

According to the complaint filed on Oct. 9 with Rockingham Superior Court, Patricia Hamann, a career firefighter with Londonderry since October 2002, “cited a lack of communication and manipulative and controlling behavior” in a request on May 8, 2012 to be transferred to a different battalion, which was subsequently denied.

Hamann alleges between February 2012 and April 2012 her Battalion Chief attempted to bar her from participating in necessary training by failing to inform her of said training and would exclude her from planning for shift meals and shift training.

Additionally, the complaint alleges Hamann’s Battalion Chief would undermine her seniority by allowing more junior firefighters benefits not conferred upon her. He also allegedly undermined Hamann by encouraging other firefighters to ignore her, exclude her from conversations, exclude her from activities, or otherwise make it difficult for her to perform her duties as a firefighter.

Hamann alleges her co-workers would ignore her and talk about her while she was in the room as if she were not there, ignoring her requests or statements to them, and otherwise undermining her ability to perform her job.

Kevin MacCaffrie, who was fire chief in Londonderry at the time, conducted an investigation, but did not take corrective action, the complaint alleges. Hamann was disciplined soon after, before she went on medical leave; and she was disciplined immediately upon her return in June 2012.

On Oct. 25, 2012, the complaint says the now retired MacCaffrie sent Hamann a letter stating he would not take immediate action on her request for transfer to a different battalion and characterized her complaints as “minor.”

Hamann allegedly requested transfer again on Jan. 2, 2013 and in August 2013. Both those requests were denied and Hamann was allegedly disciplined three times following her additional requests, according to the court document.

On Aug. 27, 2014, Hamann was temporarily transferred to another battalion when the police department began an investigation into her allegations of a hostile work environment, according to the complaint.

Hamann said she was “subjected to circular and ambiguous discussions, continuous criticism, and dishonesty,” and “the negative treatment by members of the battalion caused her headaches, sleepless nights, and required her to seek wellness aids.”

The Town also launched an investigation into Hamann’s claims, tasking the Police Department with the job of determining if her grievances had merit, rather than hiring an independent investigation service, according to the complaint.

After requests for a copy of the report for the Town’s investigation went unanswered by Town Manager Kevin Smith, the Police Department, and Fire Chief Darren O’Brien, Hamann complained to the New Hampshire Department of Labor (DOL) on March 28, 2014.

The DOL threatened to sanction the Town after receiving a letter saying the Town refused to produce the investigation. The DOL explained it could not hold a hearing to enforce its order on May 9, 2014.

On June 6, 2014 the DOL withdrew its order to produce the investigation report, according to the complaint.

The Town had not been served the lawsuit when the Londonderry Times went to press on Tuesday, Oct. 28. The lawsuit is to be served by Nov. 28.

When asked for comments regarding the lawsuit, O’Brien deferred to Smith, who asked that inquiries be directed to the town attorney.

Attorney Joshua Scott did not return multiple phone calls requesting comments on Hamann’s case.

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