Former police dispatcher sues Borough of Media, Pa. and police officials for harassment

Jon Campisi Nov. 29, 2014, 6:00pm


A veteran police dispatcher for a Delaware County municipality who claims she was exposed to a pattern of sexual harassment and discrimination at the hands of various supervisors has filed a federal discrimination lawsuit against the borough and police personnel.

Oreland, Pa. resident Stephanie Harmer, who worked for the Borough of Media Police Department for 23 years, is suing the borough, its police chief, two police officers and the police chief’s secretary for what she contends was ongoing discriminatory treatment in the workplace.

In addition to the borough itself, the codefendants named in the lawsuit are Police Chief Martin J. Wusinich, Officers Anthony J. Dentino, III and James E. Bowen, Jr., and Deborah Bromley, who is Wusinich’s secretary.

The civil action, which was filed April 18 at the federal courthouse in Philadelphia by Doylestown, Pa. attorney Eric G. Marttila and Morton, Pa. lawyer Matthew B. Weisberg, claims that in the months leading up to April 4, 2008, the defendants and other John Doe members of the police department routinely harassed and discriminated against Harmer on the basis of her gender, “thereby creating an abnormal and hostile working environment.”

The defendants often made comments relating to their shared belief that women shouldn’t be involved in police work, made crude and sexually explicit comments in Harmer’s presence, viewed and shared pornography in her presence, inappropriately handled weapons in her presence, (once pointing a gun in her direction), making “rude and demeaning” comments relating to Harmer’s weight and personal issues, berating and disrespecting Harmer publicly on radio calls, refusing to process her requests for days off, refusing to relieve her so she could use the bathroom, and spitting into a trashcan in her presence, according to the complaint.

Harmer initially brought her complaints to Chief Wusinich, who allegedly responded by saying, “Forgive us for having testicles,” the suit claims.

On April 4, 2008, Harmer and the others were called into the chief’s office, at which time a shouting match ensued, causing Harmer to develop chest pain and other physical complications, the lawsuit alleges.

As a result, Harmer had to be taken by ambulance to the emergency room.

Following a doctor’s diagnosis, Harmer was unable to return to her job as a police dispatcher, and was ultimately discharged.

Harmer then filed a claim for work-related disability benefits, which was ultimately contested by the borough.

The borough manager did extend a conditional job offer to Harmer in early October 2009, but she was unable to accept due to her ongoing disability, the lawsuit states.

“The Borough of Media refused to extend an  unconditional job offer in retaliation for her complaints against sexual harassment and discrimination,” the lawsuit states. “Ms. Harmer has lost substantial wages and benefits because of the actions of the Borough of Media and the other named defendants.”

The complaint states that Harmer continues to seek medical attention for her physical and mental health, and that she continues to suffer mental anguish and severe emotional distress as a result of the pervasive harassment in the workplace.

The lawsuit accuses the defendants of sex discrimination and unlawful retaliation.

Harmer seeks declaratory judgment that the defendants violated her rights as well as unspecified compensatory and punitive damages.

She also seeks attorney’s fees and other equitable relief including back pay and benefits.

A jury trial has been demanded.

 

The federal case number is 2:12-cv-02037-TON. 

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