Today I want to talk about a housing discrimination claim.  But wait! It has significant relevance to employment discrimination claims so bear with me for a second.

As an additional incentive, if you’ve been following the Marvel movies, this case will ALSO have elements of a multi-verse with multiple versions of the CHRO in play, so consider this case to be “Loki” for legal geeks. (If you don’t understand, your kids will.)

Ok, back to the law.

The story first starts in 2012 when the Connecticut Supreme Court upheld an award of $95,000 in noneconomic damages to an employee in an harassment claim, even though the employee did not offer any expert or medical testimony on the subject and provided very little to no evidence on it, according to the court’s opinion.

The case, Patino v. Birken Mfg, has often been cited for the proposition that noneconomic damages will not be overturned unless they are excessive or shocking.  The Court’s decision cited several other cases to compare the verdicts in those cases with that one.  These types of cases are also what is known as “garden variety” emotional distress damages.

Flash forward to 2015 and a case of housing discrimination filed at the CHRO.  The condominium never appeared in the case to defend itself, which resulted in a default judgment.  A hearing in damages was then held. At the hearing, the CHRO requested $75,000 in noneconomic damages on behalf of the individual. However, the referee awarded $15,000 in compensatory damages for emotional distress. Victory and case closed, right?

Nope. Then things get interesting. The CHRO appealed the decision of its own referee, contending the damages were insufficient.  The Superior Court remanded the case for further decision and on remand, the referee did not change the damages award.  The CHRO then appealed again to the Superior Court which affirmed the decision.

Which led to an appeal to the Connecticut Appellate with the CHRO representing the CHRO (Plaintiff) and the CHRO representing the CHRO (Defendant).

(Don’t try to think too much about it; your head will spin but you can read footnote 1 for an explanation where the court notes “The present case thus presents us with the unusual situation of both parties on appeal advocating for the same
interests; specifically, asking this court to reverse the decision of the Superior Court, vacate the referee’s award of damages and remand the case for a new calculation of damages.”)

For good measure, the State of Connecticut filed a brief as amicus curiae.   (That’s a lot of tax dollars hard at work, as they say.)

On appeal in CHRO v. Cantillon, both versions of the CHRO asked the court to reverse, claiming a misapplication of prior case law.  Both argued that Patino stands for the proposition that in “garden variety” emotional distress claims, “there is a presumptive monetary range of damages between $30,000 and $125,000.”


Continue Reading CHRO vs. CHRO: How Much is “Garden Variety” Emotional Distress Really Worth

In a decision that will be officially released on Tuesday, the Connecticut Appellate Court has upheld the dismissal of a wrongful discharge claim against Marvelwood School, an independent school in Kent, Connecticut. In doing so, the Court turned back an attempt to limit the employment-at-will doctrine and provided employers in Connecticut with reassurance that wrongful discharge claims will be appropriately limited.

The case, Zweig v. Marvelwood School, can be viewed here.

(An upfront disclosure: My firm represented the employer here and I represented the school on the successful appeal.) 

The facts of the case are relatively straightforward and are summarized in the court’s decision. The plaintiff Aaron Zweig was employed by the defendant Marvelwood School as a history teacher and school’s Director of Food Studies. That role required him to establish and maintain a garden on campus and use it to teach a class on food studies.

In May, 2015, Mr. Zweig allegedly objected to the school’s suggestion that telephone poles that had been treated with creosote, a pesticide and wood preservative, be used to make raised beds in the garden because he believed that the chemical posed a health risk to himself and his students.


Continue Reading Connecticut Appellate Court Rejects Challenge to At-Will Employment Doctrine

The headlines from the American Rescue Plan Act are all about the $1400 recovery rebate credits.

But for employers, there are a lot more details about the tax issues and employee benefit issues that are contained within ARPA.

My colleagues have prepared a thorough summary on our sister blog, Employment Law Letter.  One item that

Well, it’s over.

Joe Biden will be the next President of the United States effective January 20, 2021.

For employers, the last several years have been filled with several retreats from existing policies.   And over the last year in particular, the Trump administration was busy rolling out new regulations for employers to follow.  It’s not

Updated April 23, 2020 to reflect new EEOC guidance.

It seems clear now that we are far from the end to this pandemic. But, just as clearly, we are now reaching the end of the beginning of this pandemic.

We’ve been staying at home for several weeks and some other states are already considering loosening

Wednesday felt like a breaking point. The day when COVID-19 seemed to come out from under your office desk and said “You’re surrounded. Go home.”

NBA – Suspending its season indefinitely.

Schools in Fairfield County – Closed with the likelihood that more schools will follow soon.

Tom Hanks – Another COVID-19 victim.

Of course, this

How many days in a row can an employee work? That’s the question we’ll tackle in this installment of the Employment Law Checklist Project. #emplawchecklist

It’s actually a question I first asked right before Yom Kippur twelve years ago so it seems appropriate to revisit this today with the holiday this week.

The short answer

Yesterday, a group of workers at some of the travel plazas in Connecticut, along with members of Local 32BJ of SEIU, rallied to protest “wage theft” and call for unionization of the employees who work there, including fast-food workers.

The issues the group is raising — at least that have been reported by the