Fireman claims sexual harrassment, sues Texas City

John Suayan, Galveston Bureau Jun. 28, 2010, 5:49am

GALVESTON - A Galveston County man argues that he was terminated from his job with the Texas City Fire Department because he filed a sexual harrassment grievance.

Mark Pandanellalleges he was subjected to aggressive sexual advances from a female co-worker from 2003 to late 2006, according to a lawsuit filed June 15 in the Galveston Division of the Southern District of Texas.

Pandanell reported the conduct to his superiors, but it continued, the suit says.

"Despite the plaintiff's complaining of his co-workers sexual harrassment to superiors, and the nature of her repetitive, overt, and aggressive behavior, the defendant Texas City not only did not disciplined her, but also promoted her to captain and allowed the sexually hostile environment to continue," the original petition states.

The plaintiff adds that he sought assistance from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, but the defendant implemented an immediate course of retaliation against him upon learning about it.

Pandanell would serve with the fire department the next few years without incident, but claims he became the target of a number of investigations claiming multiple violations of city policies, the suit states.

He approached the EEOC again in 2008 when the city first fired him for his discrimination complaints. An independent arbitrator later reinstated his job.

"However, almost immediately upon plaintiff's return to work, the defendant resumed its retaliation against him," the original complaint says.

The suit asserts the fire chief engaged in certain acts against Pandanell such as stripping the plaintiff of his post-lunch naps and investigating him for reportedly stealing city property, which the Texas City Police Department determined did not happen.

"The defendant was not satisfied with the false charges alone," it says.

"The plaintiff was ordered to stay at his home, under house arrest, and ordered not to have contact with anyone."

Pandanell explains that he sat at home for days around late 2009 without contact or information regarding his residential incarceration.

"These conditions and treatment caused the plaintiff severe emotional distress and mental anguish, manifesting in physical injury that is still being treated," the suit says.

Attorney John Bruster Loyd is representing the plaintiff, and U.S. District Court Judge Kenneth M. Hoyt is presiding over the case.

Case No. 3:10-cv-00235

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