Board settles firefighter lawsuit alleging repeated sexual harassment

The Board of Supervisors on Tuesday approved a $575,000 settlement of a sexual harassment lawsuit filed by firefighter Suzanne Montes, who alleged she faced repeated harassment at Chinatown Station 2 where she was assigned

Montes was only the sixth female to serve on a fire truck in the San Francisco Fire Department, according to the lawsuit filed in May 2017 in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California.

“Many of her co-workers at Station 2 were opposed to a female being assigned to the position and started a campaign of harassment aimed at forcing Ms. Montes to leave the station,” said the lawsuit. “Ms. Montes was ostracized, constantly degraded, and had feces spread in her bathroom. She crawled into her bed to sleep one night only to find that one of her co-workers had urinated in her bed.”

The settlement approval comes before a Thursday hearing by the board’s Government Audit and Oversight Committee on sexual harassment and sex discrimination in the Fire Department.

The firefighters accused of the harassment have a pending lawsuit against The City in San Francisco Superior Court. They were transferred as a result of the harassment complaints against them and are prohibited to return to Station 2 for three years. They deny the harassment allegations and allege in the lawsuit they were discriminated against because Montes was having an affair with the station’s battalion chief at the time and received preferential treatment.

City Attorney’s Office spokesman John Cote said the proposed settlement “is a fair outcome given the relevant facts and the parties’ interest in resolving the dispute without continued litigation.”

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