Metro Weekly

Lesbian firefighter claims she was sexually harassed, “groped” daily, and fired after complaining

Kira Castellon claims she was subjected to a hostile work environment, but superiors did nothing to remedy the problem

lesbian, firefighter, harassed, groped
Arbor Hose Company 1 – Photo: Piscataway Township, via Facebook.

A lesbian firefighter in Piscataway, N.J., has filed a lawsuit against the fire company she used to work for and the township it serves, claiming she was a victim of sexual harassment on the job and subjected to a hostile work environment.

Kira Castellon sued Arbor Hose Company 1, Fire District 3, and Piscataway township last month in state Superior Court in Middlesex County.

She says that when she joined the fire company in 2015, she was the only female firefighter, and that her fellow firefighters generally knew about her sexual orientation.

In her lawsuit, Castellon claims that, in September 2016, she began to be harassed by a male firefighter who groped and kissed her “on an almost daily basis from late 2016 through January 2019.”

She also claims he “thrust his pelvis into [her] from all directions as his way of saying hello and goodbye,” and that the sexual harassment occurred in the presence of fire officials.

Castellon says in the lawsuit that the firefighter told her on several occasions: “I’ll make you straight again,” according to the Bridgewater Courier News.

The harassment continued even after she returned to work after a surgery that required her to be on crutches. According to the lawsuit, Castellon struggled “to stay upright as the firefighter in question groped her and thrust his pelvis into her rear-end.”

Even though Castellon reported the sexual harassment, she claims fire officials did nothing to enforce an “effective anti-harassment” policy, or provide training to employees to try and combat the sexual harassment.

See also: Transgender male employee sues Sweetgreen for sexual harassment and discrimination

She was ultimately fired on Oct. 30, 2019, following a dispute over whether she had used Arbor Hose’s tax-exempt identification number for purchases at a local Sam’s Club. Fire officials claim the purchases were for her personal use, while Castellon says the items were work-related purchases.

She alleges that her firing was a form of retaliation against her for reporting the harassment, as well as her sex (including her sexual orientation) and status as a woman.

“It is clear that [Castellon’s] prior reports of sexual harassment and her continued efforts to combat the workplace harassment which tortured her experience at the firehouse since she arrived, were a motivating, if not the sole factor in [the] decision to terminate her employment,” Catellon’s lawyers claim in the lawsuit.

In their complaint, Castellon’s lawyers have asked for a jury trial. They are also seeking damages and attorneys’ fees, as well as any costs associated with bringing the lawsuit. 

The case has been assigned to Middlesex County Superior Court Judge Alberto Rivas, but a trial date has not yet been set.

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John Riley is the local news reporter for Metro Weekly. He can be reached at jriley@metroweekly.com

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