Former Concord firefighter sues city, claiming years of homophobic sexual harassment, retaliation

Concord ambulance responds to the scene of an emergency in 2016.

Concord ambulance responds to the scene of an emergency in 2016. Monitor file

The Concord Fire Department Engine 5 at the Manor Fire Station.

The Concord Fire Department Engine 5 at the Manor Fire Station. Monitor file


Monitor staff

Published: 04-21-2024 11:35 AM

Modified: 04-24-2024 11:45 AM

A former Concord firefighter has filed a lawsuit against the city claiming that coworkers and supervisors sexually harassed him for years, including by using homophobic slurs, and retaliated against him when he complained.

After Christopher Golomb filed complaints with the city’s human resources department and the state Human Rights Commission, he was ostracized and regularly singled out for reprimand while his employer did little to protect him. His employment became so intolerable that it forced him to resign near the end of last year after fifteen years in the department, according to the suit filed earlier this month.

“I am disappointed that it has come to this point,” Golomb said in a statement through his attorney. “I had hoped that this matter would have been resolved after my multiple internal complaints to the city.”

Golomb reported that his coworkers would regularly mock him for a perceived “failure to conform to male gender stereotypes,” referring to him, his dating life and his appearance as “gay” and using homophobic language. Some of Golomb’s supervisors regularly observed and even participated in the harassment. The suit states that Golomb is not gay.

“While Concord went through the motions of looking into Mr. Golomb’s complaints of both harassment and retaliation, it never did anything to stop the retaliation against him,” the suit states, outlining multiple city investigations into Golomb’s reports of the harassment and the backlash he said he faced. It also asserts that the city failed to perform adequate harassment training for its employees.

The City of Concord does not comment on pending litigation, City Solicitor Danielle Pacik wrote in response to a request for comment, “but it will be defending against the claims brought in the lawsuit.” Fire Chief John Chisholm also declined comment.

Fellow firefighters began regularly making jokes about Golomb’s dating life and appearance a few years after he joined Concord fire in 2008, according to the suit, ridiculing his clothing, making what the suit calls “’gay’ jokes” and asking “what’s his name?” when he would mention having been on a date. Such comments were reportedly made in front of superiors and, on one occasion, in front of a student visitor.

Describing this behavior as a “regular, daily occurrence,” the suit describes these comments as growing increasingly offensive and, in some instances, crude. Golomb’s supervisor was among those alleged to have directed homophobic slurs at him.

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Golomb filed a complaint with the city in the spring of 2016, after which then-chief Dan Andrus told Golomb he was concerned by what he had reported and that it would not happen again, the suit states.

The alleged harassment continued. The city investigated further complaints from Golomb of a hostile work environment and retaliation in 2020 — Golomb had clashed with then-Chief Guy Newbery because he resisted being transferred to another station to avoid people he said had harassed him, according to the suit.

The investigation determined Golomb’s complaints were not legally founded as retaliation or hostile work environment but “inappropriate behavior which runs counter to its policy on non-discrimination and sexual harassment occurred,” the suit states. Golomb was assured that the city would conduct sexual harassment training in the department in response, but he was unaware of any such training taking place.

After Golomb said he was moved to another station as punishment for his previous complaints, another city investigation later that year also found his claims unfounded, according to the suit. His complaint also cites a department investigation into a complaint he made after his gear had been intentionally knotted and tied up, potentially damaging it: the captain who looked into the incident agreed that the action was intentional, but found no proof of retaliation.

Golomb was increasingly ostracized by his coworkers, who eventually stopped speaking to him. He also made multiple reports to the city that he had been unfairly singled out for scrutiny and reprimand by supervisors, which it determined were unfounded, according to suit.

In July 2022, Golomb filed discrimination and retaliation charges with the New Hampshire Human Rights Commission, which the city denied.

After continuing isolation from his coworkers and mounting tension with the department, including a meeting with Chief Chisholm that Golomb found intimidating, the suit states that he was “constructively discharged” — meaning that he resigned due to intolerable working conditions — in December 2023. He is now a firefighter in Lee, NH where, according to a department social media post, he was recently promoted to the rank of Lieutenant.

Claiming discrimination, a hostile work environment and retaliation on the basis of sex under both state and federal law, Golomb filed suit against the city in March. The city has not filed any response yet, but last week moved the case from state to federal court. He is seeking reimbursement for “lost wages and benefits, future lost wages and benefits, compensatory damages, pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment of life, and attorneys’ fees and costs.”

Justin Kantar, president of Concord Professional Firefighters Local 1045, said the union has no comment on the dispute between Golomb and the city at this time.

Mayor Byron Champlin declined to comment on the litigation.