Reporting Steve Sandberg
NEW YORK (1010 WINS) – A White Plains firefighter claims he was continually harassed on the job and subjected to a constant onslaught of obscene verbal attacks because he is gay.
Steven Saunders, a 17 year veteran of the department, is now suing the city for discrimination.
1010 WINS’ Steve Sandberg reports: Saunders Stands Up For Himself
Saunders alleges that his supervisors told him to keep his sexual orientation a secret but then proceeded to “out” him without his permission.
Saunders said after his sexual orientation was revealed he was subjected to obscene verbal attacks and gestures from his colleagues that went unaddressed by superiors.
“He was betrayed by his fellow firefighters who once they knew of his sexual orientation treated him like a pariah,” attorney Randolph McCloughlin said.
The father of three said that instead of implementing anti-discrimination policies, he was taken off his usual duties and reassigned to be the Deputy Chief’s driver. Saunders contends that the move was done, in part, so that other firefighters wouldn’t have to sleep in the same room as him.
“I grew up in a family of firefighters and my whole life I knew I’d be a firefighter too. I’m also a father and a gay man,” Saunders said. “An important part of my identity has been taken away from me by the people that I trusted.”
Saunders said he filed the lawsuit to send a message to his children.
“I want my children to know it is important to stand up and be proud of who you are,” Saunders said.
“We are now in the 21st century where people are free to work at the job they love and to love the people that they love,” attorney Debra Cohen said.