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Ex-custodian Nancy Rivera sues Bethlehem YMCA for alleged defamation

Published On: Jun 19 2013 01:49:21 PM EDT

A custodian at the Bethlehem YMCA who was fired last year over a missing wallet on the same day she was given a raise is claiming in court her former employer defamed her.

Nancy Rivera, of 1115 Fritz Drive, Bethlehem, filed an amended complaint Monday in Northampton County Court against the YMCA branch at 430 East Broad St., Bethlehem, and two of its staff members.

Rivera says in her suit that after she had finished her shift on Aug. 15, 2012, she was called at home by Chris Brown, acting branch manager at the Bethlehem Y, and told she was fired because she was seen on camera stealing a wallet from the Y's "teen room."


Brown's call came just a short time after Rivera had been told at work by her supervisor, Rob Fritz, that her request for a raise had been approved, the suit says.

The lost wallet was eventually found in the Y parking lot with nothing missing, the suit says.

Rivera claims in her suit that Brown and Jenna Spirk Camasta, the Y's child-care coordinator, made "defamatory, malicious, slanderous, false, distorted [and] incomplete" statements about her to Y employees and staff as well as the alleged victim (and Rivera's co-worker at the Y), Kirby White.

The statements were intended to "inflict emotional distress and damage," the suit says.

Rivera also claims that Brown and Camasta portrayed her in a false light.

Brown reported to Bethlehem police that Rivera was seen stealing the wallet from a locker room at the Y, the suit says.

Rivera's attorney, Joshua Fulmer, told Tuesday afternoon that the wallet was found next to White's car.

The suit points out that Rivera, whom Fulmer said worked at the Y for 10 years, never walked through the parking lot because she doesn't own a car; that she used public transportation, and that the bus stop is located in the opposite direction of the lot.

Also, the suit says, the Y videotape does not show Rivera stealing White's wallet.

Fulmer said the video shows Rivera emptying a trash can in a classroom with lockers used by Y employees, including White, "but she [Rivera] did not take anything."

Fulmer said Y officials concluded Rivera must have taken the wallet "because she was the only person in the room" at the time the theft supposedly happened.
Rivera does not ask for a specific amount of money in the suit, but she is requesting legal costs as well as punitive and other damages.

Atty. Ed Easterly, who is representing the Y, told Tuesday afternoon he could not comment on Rivera's amended complaint because he has not yet seen a copy of it.

He said, "We will vigorously defend any and all claims against the Y by Ms. Rivera."

Easterly said he filed preliminary objections against Rivera's original complaint in February, because it did not mention the specific names of Y employees and staff to whom Brown and Camasta allegedly defamed Rivera.

Rivera's amended complaint cites a maintenance employee named Jim and another employee named Gaye, but says she does not know their last names.