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Suit accuses Dover asst. fire chief, city of hazing

By PAUL FEELY
New Hampshire Union Leader

October 11. 2017 11:46PM


DOVER — A former firefighter and paramedic with Dover Fire and Rescue is suing the assistant fire chief and the city, claiming discrimination and emotional distress stemming from alleged incidents of hazing.

Court documents show that Benjamin P. Noyes of Atkinson filed the lawsuit Oct. 6 in U.S. District Court in Concord against the City of Dover and Assistant Fire Chief Paul Haas, seeking lost wages, lost employment benefits, lost earning capacity and counseling expenses, along with an unspecified amount in compensatory damages for “emotional distress” and “humiliation.”

Noyes was employed by Dover Fire and Rescue from August 2014 to May 2015.

The lawsuit claims Dover Assistant Fire Chief Paul Haas, who was a captain and Noyes’ supervisor when he was employed at the department from August 2014 to May 2015, was the main culprit behind the hazing incidents.

According to court documents, Noyes said Haas allegedly began harassing him on his first day on the job, telling him he was “way too young.”

The lawsuit states, “Captain Haas explained that he didn’t believe Mr. Noyes had experienced sufficient adversity in his young life to prepare him to be a good firefighter.”

According to court documents, during Noyes’ first week of employment, pursuant to Dover Fire and Rescue department policy, Noyes took part in a standard orientation week requiring him to perform a different training exercise with a different shift team each day of the week. The exercises were compliant with National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) standards, including safety requirements such as “rehab,” or rest and rehydration periods, during the exercises.

According to the lawsuit, Noyes performed well in orientation for three days, and on about the fourth day he met team members and worked for Haas for the first time. The training exercise that day was “ladders.” According to court documents, Haas directed Noyes to lift a ladder weighing approximately 75 pounds by himself and extend it against the wall of the South Side station.

“Captain Haas deviated from Department protocol and NFPA safety standards where he authorized staff to direct Noyes to support the ladder during extension with his own body weight and not use the station wall for support,” the suit alleges.

Noyes also claims Haas violated NFPA standards when asking Noyes to perform the task in full gear, in 90-degree weather, dozens of times, without any opportunity for rest or water.

“Due to the oppressive heat Mr. Noyes began to pull at his equipment to get air, and he bent to his knees, in heat exhaustion,” states the lawsuit. “Neither Captain Haas nor his team members came to his aid.”

The lawsuit also claims in late October or early November of 2014, Haas directed Noyes to arrive for his 24-hour shift two hours early.

When Noyes arrived, he was called to a sounding alarm in a vacant building that allegedly had recently been treated for a bedbug infestation.

“Against all protocols, Mr. Noyes was sent to crawl into the building, alone, to determine the reason for the alarm,” the lawsuit claims. “Noyes found no infestation and no emergency giving rise to the alarm.”

Noyes claims when he returned to the station, Haas demanded he strip naked before entering the station “out of purported concern for bedbugs.”

Noyes claims after he stripped and entered the station house, he was met by approximately eight firefighters and two captains who “immediately began taunting Noyes, photographing him, and video-recording him with their cellphones. As Captain Haas kept filming his movie of Mr. Noyes’ degradation, another firefighter sprayed water on Mr. Noyes with a hose while others demanded that he spin for the cameras,” according to court documents.

Noyes also claims he was drugged during a trip to Boston in May 2015 with other firefighters for a retirement party, then suffered a seizure.

Noyes’ probationary period ended shortly after the alleged drugging incident, and he claims he was told by superiors he could resign or be terminated.

A request for comment on the suit sent to Dover Mayor Karen Weston was not returned.

pfeely@unioneleader.com


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