- Associated Press - Wednesday, December 16, 2015

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - A female firefighter was subjected to equipment tampering, clothing destruction and gender-related slurs at a central Ohio fire department, according to a federal discrimination lawsuit alleging a pattern of sexual harassment.

Amie Morningstar of the Circleville Fire Department was also required to meet tougher training and work standards than male counterparts and was denied promotions because she’s a woman, according to the lawsuit filed Friday.

The harassment got worse after she reported it to her superiors, according to the lawsuit. Circleville is about 30 miles south of Columbus.

“Morningstar has been subjected to retaliation, discrimination, and unwelcome sexual harassment, including but not limited to, sexual advances and/or requests for sexual favors, and other conduct of a sexual nature,” according to the lawsuit filed by attorneys Brian Duncan and Greg Barwell.

The harassment continues to create a hostile work environment for Morningstar, the lawsuit said. Morningstar is asking a judge to order an immediate end to the alleged harassment and damages above $75,000.

Circleville Fire Chief Marc Zingarelli, accused in the lawsuit of frequently directing gender-related slurs at Morningstar, did not return messages seeking comment. Circleville Law Director Gary Kenworthy declined to comment Wednesday and said he’s instructed city employees not to discuss the case.

After Morningstar became a full-time firefighter in 2007, someone urinated in her shampoo bottle, placed bodily fluid on her blanket in her firehouse bunk and cut holes in her t-shirts, according to the lawsuit. Her equipment including her face mask was tampered with, firefighter gloves and hoods were repeatedly taken and her communications radio hidden for months, the lawsuit said.

Morningstar, 33, the department’s only female firefighter, worked as a volunteer firefighter and emergency responder from 2003 to 2007, after which she was hired as a full-time firefighter.

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Andrew Welsh-Huggins can be reached on Twitter at https://twitter.com/awhcolumbus. His work can be found at http://bigstory.ap.org/content/andrew-welsh-huggins

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