I’ll first acknowledge the obvious: UConn’s national championships in both men’s and women’s basketball is a weak excuse for a post on employment law topics.

And yet, that hasn’t stopped me before. (See 2009, 2011, etc.)

For Kevin Ollie, the victory provides a nice financial bonus to him.  How do I know this? Because

Over the weekend, I asked my colleague, Chris Engler, to think of any employment law lessons that could be divined from the victories of the UConn Men’s Basketball team.  He reminds us in the post below that preparation still matters.  Of course, this isn’t the first time this blog has written about the UConn Huskies (see 2009 and 2011).  Will 2014 bring another championship?

This past weekend, the UConn men’s hoops team reminded us that hard work and thorough preparation can prevail in a contest that looks tough to win on paper. A recent federal court decision shows that those same qualities serve Connecticut employers well too.

The alleged facts are told in the court’s decision: Martin Donovan, a longtime Yale University administrator, was terminated back in 2010 after an investigation revealed numerous problems with his management style. Donovan sued for age discrimination based on three comments by his supervisors.

The background facts are important. A few months before his termination, when Donovan was 61 years old, his supervisor asked him about rumors that he was planning to retire. When Donovan vehemently denied the rumors, the supervisor expressed relief that Donovan would continue working.

Previously, another supervisor had commented on other employees’ ages in Donovan’s presence. The supervisor first conveyed his satisfaction that an accountant left and was replaced by “someone younger.” Later, the supervisor mentioned that a researcher was too old for his research to be valid.

Despite these comments, the federal court for the District of Connecticut concluded that they weren’t enough to show age discrimination. In doing so, the court provided some insight into how an employer can avoid an age discrimination claim. (Readers, get out your notepads.)

First, the court highlighted the thoroughness of the investigation into Donovan’s managerial problems. The investigators were theoretically impartial, being from another Yale unit, and they interviewed and observed nearly every employee in the department. This convinced the court that these problems weren’t just a pretext.

That brings us to Takeaway #1: Thoroughly investigate and document performance issues, such as Donovan’s managerial problems, as soon as they arise. Yale’s comprehensive investigation was its saving grace in this case.

On a related note, here’s Takeaway #1a: An employer probably has more pressure to conduct a solid investigation if there was a recent incident involving an employee’s protected status. To try to show a pretext, Donovan emphasized that his termination came mere months after the retirement conversation. While the court here wasn’t convinced, another court viewing somewhat different facts might be. Again, consistent and accurate documentation of issues should avoid this dilemma.


Continue Reading Final Four Madness: Preparation Still Matters To Win On (or In) The Court

Since I’m a lifelong Connecticut resident (and big UConn basketball fan), it seems almost a requirement that I dedicate a post today to the Huskies’ NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament championship last night.

And of course, this being an employment law blog, I’ve spent some time thinking that there must be a way to translate that victory

By all accounts, Friday’s Law & Technology Symposium by the Connecticut Bar Foundation was a smashing success.  Over 125 people attended with dozens more watching online.  But beyond the numbers was the feedback from the attendees who appreciated the symposium for the content it delivered.  It’ll soon be posted on the internet for download and we’ll

Over the weekend, Jon Lender of the Hartford Courant reported on the "complicated" ethics case of former UConn Health Center medical technologist Priscilla Dickman.  At issue: Whether state ethics laws were violated by "using state equipment, resources and time in furtherance of her private jewelry and travel consulting businesses."

A public hearing over the "ethics" side

Right now, even non-sports fans here in the state can get pretty excited about having both the men’s and the women’s basketball teams from the University of Connecticut headed to their respective Final Fours.  

But suppose one of your employees was somcopyright 2009 Daniel A. Schwartz all rights reservedehow able to secure tickets to the games in either Detroit or