A sexual harassment lawsuit filed by a female hardhat will continue despite her death in a house fire, her attorney said Monday.
Bianca Kuros, 44, was killed when flames raced through her Queens apartment Saturday, two days before the first court conference in her lawsuit. One of her two teenage daughters and two men in their 50s were critically injured, according to fire department officials.
Kuros, a widow, filed the lawsuit in July claiming she was propositioned, groped, and subjected to lewd comments on a Park Avenue construction site where she was the safety inspector. When she complained, Kuros said, she was replaced by a man.
The complaint, which sought $20 million, named JPMorgan Chase, which owned the construction site; Kuros’ employer, Total Safety Consulting; a male worker and others. Both firms declined to comment on Kuros’ death. The male worker’s whereabouts was not known.
The cause of the fire was under investigation. Fire department spokesman E. Gill said it was too early to call the fire suspicious or not suspicious.
When Kuros’ lawyer, Steven Wittels, was asked if he found the fire suspicious, he said he didn’t want to speculate.
The lawsuit was filed in federal court in Manhattan under Kuros’ maiden name, Wisniewski. A conference that had been scheduled for Monday _ Kuros would not have attended _ was postponed.
“You get a representative of the family to continue on with the suit, and that’s what will happen,” Wittels said. “It changes the complexion of the case but the family, the estate, has the right to pursue the claim she had.”
Wittels said Kuros, forced to support her family after her husband died, “pulled herself up, worked very hard to get her safety degree and was highly thought of.”
“She was a lovely woman, an energetic woman,” he said.
But on the construction site in 2007, she “suffered greatly due to very oppressive work conditions, a harassing, hostile work environment,” he said.
In November 2007, after complaining about sexist treatment, she was replaced as safety inspector by a man, Wittels said, although she continued to work for Total Safety. This was followed by emotional problems, a disability leave and eventual discharge, he said.
In March of this year, Total Safety offered Kuros her job back, Wittels said.
“She was going to take it, she felt ready to work, she was excited about it, but the next month they reneged,” the lawyer said. “That was quite another blow to her.”
Referring to her death, Wittels said Kuros “didn’t deserve what happened to her at work and deserved this even less.”
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