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Schdy firefighter claims sexual harassment and discrimination

SCHENECTADY Death threats, sexual harassment, discrimination and retaliationthose are the allegations a female firefighter in Schenectady is making against the fire department.  She and her lawyers have put the city on notice that they intend to sue. 

Jennifer Costa has been a firefighter in Schenectady for 14 years, she claims during that time she was the target of two death threats and a number of unwanted sexual advancements.  When she complaint about it to her superiors, she says they did nothing.  Instead, according to Costa, she was retaliated against and passed over for promotions. 

According to the notice of claim filed with the City of Schenectady on Monday, Costa was subjected to a pattern of sexual harassment and threats that go back more than a decade.  She claims she twice found what she considered death threats in her gear.  The first time, a drawing of a face with a bullet in its head was placed in her locker, the second time a picture of a face with a bullet in its head was found in her boot.  Costa claims she complained to then deputy chief, now current chief Raymond Senecal and was told "boys will be boys."

The majority of the other harassment complaints filed in the claim originate with a long-time supervisor who she alleged made unwanted sexually explicit references to her for years that were "constant and pervasive and go beyond the bounds of decency and any acceptable behavior."

Schenectady Fire Chief Ray Senecal did not return phone calls from CBS6 seeking comment.  Schenectady Mayor Gary McCarthy referred CBS6 to the city's corporation counsel.  John Polster, says the city was just served on Monday, "I've only started to scratch the surface with respect to the investigation that we're going to need to conductThe administration does not tolerate anything a kin to sexual harassment and we're going to take the allegations and go through them one at a time, speak with all the individuals that were named and do a thorough investigation."

The cost of that investigation, any defense of the case or a settlement will ultimately fall upon Schenectady tax payers, "We do have lines in the budget for hiring outside counsel, this one will be one that will be discussed with our insurance company to see who they want to hire, who we want to hire, if we are going to be hiring outside counsel at all," Polster says he expects that to happen in the next few days.

Costa is seeking lost pay, benefits and damages for emotional distress and mental anguish.  She is currently on paid sick-leave but will seek early retirement.

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