A woman who says she was sexually harassed by the president of Delmar Fire Department is suing the fire company in federal court for discrimination, emotional stress, defamation and battery.
The lawsuit filed Feb. 4 in the U.S. District Court for Delaware is the second suit filed by April D. Molchan, a former employee of Delmar Fire Department, who is seeking more than $75,000 in back pay, compensation, damages and other relief in connection with harassment her suit says she endured on the job.
Molchan filed her first lawsuit in January 2019 after filing complaints with the Delaware Department of Labor and the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Both agencies issued her Right to Sue notices. The court, however, dismissed Molchan's first lawsuit over jurisdictional matters – both Molchan and the president of the fire department, who was listed as a defendant, lived in Maryland. The court also ruled that her single allegation of sexual harassment was not severe enough. Attorney Gary Alderson said the latest lawsuit lists the fire department as the only defendant and includes additional incidents that describe a prevailing culture at Delmar.
“We want to show that the sexual harassment there of April and others has been both severe and pervasive,” he said.
Molchan began volunteering at the fire department in 2009 and eventually was hired as a paid employee until 2017, when she was terminated. The suit states she was terminated based on a bylaw prohibiting volunteer members from employment, but states a male member continues to serve as both member and employee.
Molchan's complaint stems from a 2015 incident in which she said Fire Chief Andrew Rementer put his hand on her groin, and another incident in 2017 in which she said he walked behind her and touched her buttocks, the lawsuit states. The suit also shares comments from several fire department members and officials about other complaints against Rementer over the years in connection with inappropriate behavior. The suit states one fire department official told Molchan that Rementer had been counseled for touching other women inappropriately, and during a meeting several members complained of inappropriate behavior by Rementer.
After filing complaints with fire department officials, the suit states, she was questioned in a “hostile, intrusive, discriminatory, defamatory and accusatory manner” during a committee meeting, and later humiliated during a Delmar membership meeting attended by more than 50 people including Rementer.
During the meeting, the suit states, Molchan felt her privacy was violated when her complaint was read to the entire membership, and she was left shaken, upset and embarrassed when Rementer verbally attacked her in front of the entire membership. “Molchan felt at that point as though she was on trial, not Rementer,” the suit states.
By October 2017, the suit states, Rementer was returned to a leadership position and chief engineer. He is now president and assistant fire chief. Molchan was terminated in December 2017.
Molchan is seeking a jury trial on four counts of discrimination, emotional distress, defamation and battery, and is asking for back pay, compensatory damages, punitive damages, attorneys' fees and any relief the court deems appropriate.
Rementer or a spokesperson for the fire department could not be reached for comment.