A firefighter accused of stealing a female coworker’s underwear wants to return to work, and he’s been given the green light to do so, but the city is saying not so fast.
A review board granted Mario Montoya’s reinstatement last month, but now the city is taking that decision to court.
In 2018, Albuquerque Fire Rescue fired Mario Montoya for theft, dishonesty and sexual harassment.
“Sexual harassment is any type of actions or advancements or conversations that would create an uncomfortable environment in the workplace,” said Pamelya Herndon with KWH Center for Social Justice and Change.
Montoya is accused of stealing a female firefighter’s underpants from her overnight bag, and lying about it. His wife later found the underwear in his truck and reached out to the owner of the underwear in a series of text messages, demanding to know why her husband had her panties.
The female firefighter was just as confused, saying, “What a creep! He took them from my bag, I let my officer know!”
However, Montoya claimed he had found the underwear in a common area of the firehouse. He said he picked them up to help his coworker avoid embarrassment.
Montoya appealed his firing, saying there was no proof he stole the underwear and got his job back. Now, the city of Albuquerque is appealing the ruling, saying the 11-year veteran doesn’t belong in a fire station.
“The city and Albuquerque Fire Rescue believe the city acted in accordance with its policies and procedures,” said Jessie Damazyn, city spokesperson.
Even though the personnel board has agreed to reinstate Montoya, he will not return to AFR until this appeal is finished.
His attorney is also fighting for Montoya to receive the year of PERA Contributions that he’s missed out on.
Every city employee is required to take a sexual harassment training, which the city says Montoya did take.