Employee Alleging Quid Pro Quo Harassment Could Not Show Her Termination Was Linked to Sexual Relations with Employer

In a Connecticut case decided earlier this year from the Judicial District of Stamford-Norwalk, where a female employee was sexually involved with her employer, her claims of quid pro quo harassment and constructive discharge were dismissed because she could not demonstrate sex was an implicit condition of her employment and the cessation of their relations caused her termination.[1]

From February 2008 to February 2010, the plaintiff was employed by the defendant, Post Road, as an office assistant.  Beginning in 2006 before the employment relationship began, the plaintiff and Mr. Castellana, the president of her later employer, had sexual relations on numerous occasions.  At some point in 2009 the casual relations developed into a dating relationship.  In May of 2009, the plaintiff moved into Castellana’s home and while there, the parties engaged in sexual relations on a regular basis. In September of the same year she moved out of Castellana’s home and into his condominium with her children pursuant to a month-to-month tenancy.  The sexual relationship continued roughly until her the time of her termination.  The plaintiff alleged that on February 19, 2010 they had an argument over their relationship which culminated in his request that she discontinue working for Post Road. She believed that although their sexual relationship had ended she could have continued working for Post Road by separating her personal life from her business life.[2]  Castellana testified that it was her decision to break off the relationship and that his decision to terminate her employment had nothing to do with the cessation of their sexual relationship.

The female employee sued her former employer, alleging that her employment was terminated in violation of Gen.Stat. § 46a–60(a)(8).  She alleged that the sexual relationship was an “implicit term or condition of plaintiff’s employment” and that “the termination of the relationship was the sole basis for the defendant’s decision” to terminate her employment.[3]

Connecticut’s Employment Discrimination Law at Section 46a–60(a)(8), provides:

“It shall be a discriminatory practice in violation of this section: For an employer, by the employer or the employer’s agent, for an employment agency, by itself or its agent, or for any labor organization, by itself or its agent, to harass any employee, person seeking employment or member on the basis of sex or gender identity or expression. “Sexual harassment” shall, for the purposes of this section, be defined as any or any conduct of a sexual nature when (A) submission to such conduct is made either explicitly or implicitly a term or condition of any individual’s employment, (B) submission to or rejection of such conduct by an individual is used as the basis for employment decisions affecting such individual, or (C) such conduct has the purpose or effect of substantially interfering with an individual’s work performance or creating an intimidating, hostile or offensive working environment.”

In applying this statute Connecticut courts followed federal case law for guidance. [4] Traditionally, a claim of sexual harassment under federal law proceeded on one of two theories: (1) quid pro quo—e.g. favorable treatment in return for sexual favors-or (2) hostile work environment. “In the typical case of quid pro quo sexual harassment the superior … extort(s) sexual consideration from an employee.”[5]  The 2nd Circuit’s decision in Gallagher v. Delaney [6] supported the plaintiff’s position that Section 46a–60(a)(8) is violated when the sexual relationship is a motivating factor in the employment decision.  There the Court stated, the discontinuance of sexual favors by either the employee or employer “was used as the basis for decisions affecting … the conditions or privileges of her employment.”

In denying the employee’s claim for quid pro quo harassment under Section 46a–60(a)(8) the Court held, “There was no evidence from which an inference may reasonably be drawn that sex was a condition of the plaintiff’s hiring or retention of her employment. Although unquestionably the parties engaged in sexual relations during the employment relationship both on and off the premises, there was no credible evidence that the cessation of the sexual relationship was the cause of the termination.”[7] The Court based its conclusion on two facts: prior to and during the plaintiff’s employment both parties were nonexclusive and sexually active with other partners and the plaintiff’s email sent on March 1, 2010 to the Castellana apologized to her hurtful treatment to him and thanked him for his years of care and attention.  The Court found her approbation of their relationship belied her assertion that the discontinuance of the sexual relationship caused her termination of employment.  Similarly, her testimony that she would have continued working for the defendant after the relations because she could have kept her business life separate from her personal life suggested that the sexual relationship was not an implicit condition or term of her employment.  Sex was not implicit in the employment relationship and therefore did not constitute quid pro quo harassment under Section 46a–60(a)(8).

Sexual relations in the workplace can be the product of quid pro quo sexual harassment; it is imperative that you consult with an experienced employment law practitioner.  The lawyers at Maya Murphy, P.C., are experienced and knowledgeable employment law practitioners and assist clients in Bridgeport, Darien, Fairfield, Greenwich, New Canaan, Norwalk, Stamford, Westport, and elsewhere in Fairfield County. Should you have any questions about sexual harassment and workplace discrimination or any other employment law matter, please do not hesitate to contact Attorney Joseph C. Maya, Esq. He may be reached at Maya Murphy, P.C., 266 Post Road East, Westport, Connecticut, by telephone at (203) 221-3100, or by email at JMaya@mayalaw.com.

 


[1] Meyer v. Post Rd. Auto Body Shop, Inc., FSTCV106007251S, 2013 WL 538954 (Conn. Super. Ct. Jan. 8, 2013)

[2] Id.

[3] Id.

[4] Brittel v. Department of Correction, 247 Conn. 148, 164 (1998).

[5] Henson v. City of Dundee, 682 F.2d 897, 910 (1982).

[6] Gallagher v. Delaney, 139 F.3d 338, 346 (2d cir.1998)

[7] Meyer v. Post Rd. Auto Body Shop, Inc., FSTCV106007251S, 2013 WL 538954

 

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