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

Remember 2010?

Those were the days of Lady Gaga’s “Meat Dress”. You could also play “Angry Birds” on your new smartphone.

And discrimination complaints to the EEOC were about at their all-time high.

But over the last few years — and in particular, last year — discrimination and retaliation claims have been down.

A LOT.

Oh Halloween.

You have a tendency to make employment lawyers busy.

For instance, there was that time when an employee made comments about a co-worker “taking a girlfriend dressed as a 747 to a Halloween party and bringing her in for a landing” when the co-worker was gay and had no girlfriend. Harassment? (Hansen

Suppose a national origin discrimination case goes to a jury trial (I know we’re not having jury trials during this pandemic, but humor me).

The jury comes back with a verdict finding for the Plaintiff-employee. But it awards the Plaintiff just one dollar.  Is this a victory?

Before you answer, you should know this happens

One of the items I talk about in a sexual harassment prevention training is that people’s perception of what sexual harassment is, may differ from how a court defines it.

Suppose I told you that the owner of a small company that you worked at and reported to made inappropriate comments in discussing the size

Over the weekend, I finished binge-watching Apple TV+’s The Morning Show and had two immediate reactions.

First off, OMG these people are not social-distancing.  The workplace is so crowded! WHERE ARE THEIR MASKS?

But after that, I was impressed that the show presented a fairly complicated (at least for a drama) presentation of the

The Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities recently announced that it will, upon request, extend the deadline for employers to provide sexual harassment prevention training by 90 days for new employees.

The deadline to complete such training is six months after their start date, absent an extension.

But employers should beware; the announcement has three

This blog has tried to stay apolitical throughout its 12+ years so I’m not going to start talking politics now.

But, over the last week, the issue of confidentiality provisions and non disparagement clauses in settlement agreements of discrimination claims has moved front and center of the political debate between Senator Elizabeth Warren and Michael

It’s been far too long since our last installment from March 2019, but my ongoing dialogue with Nina Pirrotti, a prominent plaintiff’s-side employment law attorney, is back. In this post, we talked about the highlights from 2019 with a sneak peek at 2020.  My thanks to Nina for her contributions. You can find her firm’s blog posts here as well.  

Dan:  Nina! Good to talk with you again here.  I hope you had a great Thanksgiving; mine was full of turkey, stuffing and even skiing.  But we have so much to talk about. It seems that 2019 has been a busy year in employment law which is kind of surprising because the economy keeps rolling on. I thought we’d look back on 2019 and look ahead to 2020.

From my perspective, it’s tough trying to recap 2019 in just one or two paragraphs. The most obviously trendline to me sees to be that the #metoo movement shows no signs of abating or of a backlash.  And for people like both you and me who care about social justice, this is a great thing. Real change to root out sexual harassment has been long overdue. We’re now going to see training mandated at basically all workplaces and other changes.  But will it be enough or will it stall out in 2020?

Paid FMLA is obviously another big topic but we’re really not going to see those changes until at least 2021.  What else stands out to you from this past year?

Nina: A warm hello to one of my favorite sparring partners.  It is so great to rekindle our feisty exchanges!

Well, Dan, as you may have guessed from the two articles I wrote for the Connecticut Law Tribune in October 2018 and mid-March 2019, the critical issues raised by the #MeToo movement continue to loom large for me this year.

While we have on rare (and much publicized) occasions, seen the pendulum swing too far in the other direction, (See e.g. “’Survivor’ Contestants Apologize After #Me Too” Backlash”), the movement has largely been a force for healthy, overdue change.
Continue Reading The Dialogue: A Busy Year in Employment Law in 2019 with a Look Ahead to 2020

If you’re a Connecticut employer, new requirements regarding training and posting — as well as changes to the underlying anti-discrimination law — should be a must-read.

On Tuesday, June 4, 2019, the General Assembly passed a series of revisions to Senate Bill 3, which itself passed over the weekend. Together, these series of changes (S.B. 1111 and S.B. 3) will impact employers of all sizes and cases at the CHRO. 

In essence, you had a bill that was amended after it already passed. Rather than get into what was in the original bill vs. final bill, I thought it might be helpful just to recap what is in the final version of the bills, as combined.

Governor Lamont is expected to sign these bills in the next week or so.

To be clear, this recap should not be a substitute for legal advice and this recap only addresses some of the most relevant private employer provisions; there’s some provisions in there regarding EEO officers for state agencies that are beyond the scope of this recap. Credit should also be given to the state’s OLR Bill Analysis as well. 

TRAINING

Currently, employers with at least 50 employees are required to give their supervisors two hours of training on state and federal sexual harassment laws and remedies.

The new law will require employers of all sizes to give training to supervisors by October 1, 2020 (or within six months of their assumption of supervisory duties, after that time).

For employers with 3 or more employees, the training must also be given to all other employees also by October 1, 2020 (or within six months of hire, after that time.)

In both instances, the training must be updated every ten years by employers, though it doesn’t seem to be the same two hours — just a “supplemental” update.  Also, any employee (including supervisor) trained since October 1, 2018 is exempt from being “retrained” a second time.

The bill requires CHRO to develop a free online training video or other interactive method. If that’s done on time, employers will have to give the training within six months of an employee’s start date.

If employers don’t provide training, it will now be a “discriminatory practice” that may allow employees to bring an action in the CHRO (or court).  The fine for failing to provide training will be $750.

NOTICES TO EMPLOYEES

The new law (piggybacking on existing law which requires a notice be posted regarding sexual harassment) will require employers of three or more employees to send a copy of this to employees via e-mail within 3 months of hire — so long as the employee has an e-mail address (company-provided or personal).  The subject line should be titled “Sexual Harassment Policy” or words very similar to that effect.  If the employer doesn’t give employees an e-mail address, the information must be included on its website.  If the CHRO develops something on their own, the employer can just provide this link.

The fine for failing to do so will be $750 as well.

CORRECTIVE ACTION IN SEXUAL HARASSMENT CLAIMS

When an employer takes prompt remedial action in response to a claim of sexual harassment, the new law requires that the employer can only modify the target’s condition of employment upon agreement in writing from the employee.  That means, transferring an employee to a different department can only be done upon written consent.

BUT, even if the employer did not obtain the written consent, the bill still allows the CHRO to find that the employer’s corrective action was reasonable and not “to the detriment” to the complainant, based on the evidence.

TIMEFRAME FOR FILING DISCRIMINATION AND HARASSMENT CLAIMS
Continue Reading The Definitive Employer Guide to Connecticut’s New Anti-Sexual Harassment Law