Posts tagged with "Fairfield attorney"

What’s In a Separation Agreement?

With the economy where it is, the employment lawyers in the Westport, Connecticut office of Maya Murphy, P.C. are frequently asked to review and negotiate separation agreements for terminated employees.  These agreements often appear similar in form and content but must be carefully scrutinized, as they can contain hidden “trip wires” that can have a profound and long-lasting effect on the former employee’s job prospects.  Here are some of the things to look out for.

Most separation agreements contain restrictive covenants—confidentiality, non-solicitation, or non-competition clauses.  The first two—confidentiality and non-solicitation—are typically non-controversial, as they often confirm pre-existing obligations owed an employer by a former employee.  The last—non-competition—is usually a point of contention, as it impacts directly the employee’s ability to find a new position.  We have blogged extensively on non-competes, their interpretation and enforceability, etc. and readers are invited to review those prior posts.  But other terms and conditions of a separation agreement deserve your attention, as well.

First of all, do not be surprised by the length of a separation agreement.  A federal statute called the Older Worker’s Benefit and Protection Act requires the inclusion of extensive release language, and such things as a 21 day review and seven day revocation period.  Here are some of the other things you should be on the lookout for:

  • Consideration: 

Make sure all of the severance benefits are correct and clearly stated.  This includes severance pay, COBRA coverage, etc.  Do not leave anything to inference or implication.

  • Confirmation that No Claims Exist/Covenant Not to Sue:

Notwithstanding the comprehensive release language, some separation agreements will also require the employee to state that he/she is not aware of any factual basis to support any charge or complaint and that the employee will forego suit, even if such a claim exists.

  • Non-disparagement:

Both sides often agree that neither will say anything to disparage the other.  Sometimes (particularly in the financial industry), a separation agreement will contain a “carve out” for employer reporting to FINRA or the SEC.  In such a case, it is important to have the agreement state that as of the employee’s separation date, the employer was not aware of any reportable event or information that would warrant comment or notation on a Form U-5.

  • Governing Law: 

Employment law does not travel well across state lines.  For example, California law is much different than Connecticut’s.  Large companies will sometimes have their separation agreements governed by the law of the state where it has its headquarters, irrespective of the actual place of work of the departing employee.

  • Acknowledgement of Non-Revocation:

An employee has seven days within which to revoke acceptance of a separation agreement.  Some companies adopt a “belt and suspenders” approach and require the employee to acknowledge in writing a negative—that they have not revoked such acceptance.


The employment law attorneys in the Westport, Connecticut office of Maya Murphy, P.C. have extensive experience in the negotiation and litigation of all sorts of employment-related disputes and assist clients from Greenwich, Stamford, New Canaan, Darien, Norwalk, Westport and Fairfield in resolving such issues.  203-221-3100.

The Best Employment Lawyers in Connecticut and New York

Employment Discrimination Lawyers in New York and Connecticut

State and national laws protect employees from being subjected to discriminatory treatment and termination in the workplace because of the employee’s gender, race, age, national origin, religion, pregnancy, sexual orientation, or disability. If you have reason to believe that you have experienced discrimination on the job, you should contact Joseph C. Maya, Esq. right away. Mr. Maya has a national reputation for successfully handling employment discrimination matters. He can be contacted via e-mail at JMaya@Mayalaw.com or by dialing (203) 221-3100 in Connecticut or (212) 682-5700 in New York.

Laws Protect Employees from Sexual Harassment in the Workplace

These laws also protect employees from sexual harassment , a hostile work environment, and from being touched in an offensive manner in the workplace by supervisors, coworkers, or even clients. Employees have a right to stop discriminatory conduct in the workplace. If an employee tries to stop that conduct or notifies a supervisor that discriminatory conduct has occurred, that employee also has protection, under state and national laws, from retaliation by the supervisor or employer.

In fact, any person who complains to his or her superior or employer has protection from the law against retaliation by his or her employer. If you feel you might be a victim of racial, gender, or sexual discrimination on the job, you should contact Joseph C. Maya, Esq. at JMaya@Mayalaw.com or by dialing him at (203) 221-3100 or (212) 682-5700. Let our experience guide you and protect your legal rights at work.


Serving Stamford, Greenwich, Norwalk and surrounding communities including Darien, New Canaan, Westport, Wilton & Weston; the greater Bridgeport area including Fairfield, Stratford, Monroe & Redding; the greater Danbury area including Ridgefield, Newtown & Bethel; and the communities surrounding Milford and New Haven. We also serve all of Westchester and New York Counties.

Use of Word “Bitch” Does Not Automatically Imply Gender-Based Hostility

A work environment is considered “hostile” if a reasonable person would have found it so and if the plaintiff subjectively so perceived it.  Outrageous conduct and egregious acts that are severe or pervasive automatically command an inference of gender-based hostility.  In the workplace of today, crude or degrading epithets, while hardly the rule, are certainly not the exception.  One such word—“bitch”—has seemingly found a place of its own in some people’s daily vocabulary.  The question arises as to whether constant use of that word in relation to a female employee is sex-based and reflects hostility toward women.  The short answer is it can, but doesn’t necessarily have to.

A Relevant Court Case

In a federal court case, a female field technician for a cable company filed suit based upon a veritable litany of gender-based abuse.  She alleged male technicians received better assignments, more overtime, and required tools and equipment.  In addition to disparately harsh working conditions, she also alleged that her foremen continually referred to her as a “bitch.”  An appellate court found based upon the record before it that constant use of the word was sex-based and reflected hostility to women.  The operative language here is “based upon the record before it.”

The plaintiff argued that the word “bitch” is such an intensely degrading sexual epithet that its use should automatically result in a finding that it implies hostility toward women.  The court readily acknowledged that the use of that word in a variety of contexts reflects that hostility.  The court rejected, however, a rule that would automatically command from its use an inference of gender-based hostility.

As in so many employment discrimination cases, the finding of a hostile work environment depends upon the totality of the circumstances.  In this case, when grouped with other acts of disparate treatment, constant use of the word “bitch” could reasonably be found to contribute to a subjectively and objectively hostile work environment.

Viewed in isolation, however, it would appear that even repeated reference to a female employee as a “bitch”, without other evidence of other sufficiently severe or pervasive discriminatory acts, will not support a claim of a hostile work environment.  Each case, however, must be assessed on its own particular facts.

The employment law attorneys in the Westport, Connecticut office of Maya Murphy, P.C. have extensive experience in the negotiation and litigation of all sorts of employment-related disputes and assist clients from Greenwich, Stamford, New Canaan, Darien, Norwalk, Westport and Fairfield in resolving such issues. Please contact our Westport office at 203-221-3100.

Damage Award in Sexual Harassment case reduced from $500,000 to $50,000

In a case before the Supreme Court of New York, the Court modified a $500,000 damage award for mental anguish from sexual harassment to $50,000.  The Court found the half million dollar damage award by the Commissioner of Human Rights excessive and stated, “In sexual harassment proceedings with the State Division of Human Rights, damage awards for mental anguish and humiliation must be based upon actual pecuniary loss and emotional injury; care must be taken to insure that the award is compensatory and not punitive in nature.”[1]

Case Details

The petitioner in the case was a female high school student employed by Young Legends, LLC in a franchise sandwich shop in the City of Norwich.  In January 2007 the teenage employee filed a complaint with the State Division of Human Rights alleging that Dale Blackwood, her supervisor and the owner of Young Legends, subjected her to sexual harassment during her employment.  She testified about Blackwood’s “touchy feely” interactions with female employees and offensive sexual remarks.[2]

In particular Blackwood put constant pressure on the petitioner to visit him alone in his apartment and when she eventually did so, he forced her to engage in sexual intercourse.  When Blackwood asked her to return to his apartment, she refused.  In a series of angry, insulting text messages he told her that her refusal meant she was quitting her job.

The Damage Award

Following a public hearing the Administrative Law Judge determined that the petitioner had been subjected to quid pro quo and hostile work environment sexual harassment and that Blackwood was personally liable.  The Judge recommended a damage award of $1,218.75 for lost wages and $25,000 for mental anguish and humiliation. On administrative review, the Commissioner of Human Rights modified the order by increasing the mental anguish award to $500,000.[3]

On appeal the Supreme Court of New York indicated that in sexual harassment and discrimination proceedings with the State Division of Human Rights, damage awards for mental anguish and humiliation must be based on actual pecuniary loss and emotional injury.  Damage awards are meant to compensate the victim rather than be punitive in nature.  While Blackwood’s conduct was completely reprehensible, the court compared the evidence to similar sexual harassment and discrimination cases to conclude that the Commissioner’s award was excessive and reduced it to $50,000.[4]

The lawyers at Maya Murphy, P.C., are experienced and knowledgeable employment law practitioners and assist clients in New York, Bridgeport, Darien, Fairfield, Greenwich, New Canaan, Norwalk, Stamford, Westport, and elsewhere in Fairfield County. Should you have any questions about a sexual harassment claim or 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] New York State Div. of Human Rights v. Young Legends, LLC, 90 A.D.3d 1265, 1269-70 (2011)

[2] Id. at 1266.

[3] Id.

[4] Id. at 1270.

Hostile Work Environment vs. Quid Pro Quo Sexual Harassment

As an employment law attorney I can get too accustomed to the legal jargon.  One question frequently asked by prospective clients is “what is the difference between hostile work environment and quid pro quo sexual harassment?”  While both types of employment discrimination are illegal and actionable, they can take very different forms.

Perhaps the most succinct explanation of the two causes of action comes from a four-year old Connecticut Appellate Court case: Quid pro quo sexual harassment, as its name suggests, conditions employment on the return of sexual favors; hostile environment sexual harassment is conduct that “has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual’s work performance or creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive working environment.”

There is a related variant, retaliation for complaining about sexual harassment, that also gives rise to a cause of action but which must be separately pleaded and proven.  That is why a victim of sexual harassment or retaliation should consult with an experienced employment law litigator before framing the particular allegations of a lawsuit.  At trial, you will be held to the allegations of your Complaint and limited to presenting only evidence in support of your claims.  Thus, if you plead quid pro quo, you may not be able to prove hostile work environment, or vice versa.


The employment law attorneys in the Westport, Connecticut office of Maya Murphy, P.C. have extensive experience in the negotiation and litigation of all sorts of employment-related disputes and assist clients from Greenwich, Stamford, New Canaan, Darien, Norwalk, Westport and Fairfield in resolving such issues.  Please contact our Westport office at 203-221-3100.

What Is a Constructive Discharge?

Employment Resignation

Hopefully, you have never been fired—that is a discharge or termination.  Sometimes, however, an employee has no reasonable alternative to quitting—that is a constructive discharge.  The involuntary nature of the employee’s “quit” may enable him or her to claim the constructive discharge as an adverse employment action so as to maintain a claim for employment discrimination.  An employee’s reasonable decision to resign because of unendurable working conditions is, for remedial purposes, equated to a formal discharge.

A constructive discharge occurs when an employer indirectly, but deliberately, makes an employee’s working conditions so intolerable that the employee is forced involuntarily to resign.  The key points of inquiry are the employer’s intentional conduct and the intolerable level of the employee’s working conditions.  The standard for evaluation is objective–how would a reasonable employee behave in the particular employee’s shoes?  Subjective feelings as to the intolerable nature of the employee’s position cannot support a finding of constructive discharge.

Establishing Constructive Discharge

In assessing a claim of constructive discharge, individual factors, standing alone, may be insufficient to carry the day.  For this reason, the pertinent conditions are aggregated since a reasonable person encounters life’s circumstances cumulatively rather than individually.  Some routine workplace events— e.g. a poor performance appraisal, lack of training, or increased job demands—are to be expected and do not support an inference that a reasonable person would be “compelled” to resign.  The standard for constructive discharge goes beyond difficult or unpleasant working conditions.

As is so often the case in employment law, the presence of a constructive discharge depends upon the circumstances of the particular employee involved.  If you feel that your employer deliberately made your work environment intolerable and that you were forced to quit, you should confer with a seasoned employment law litigator to determine your rights.


The employment law attorneys in the Westport, Connecticut office of Maya Murphy, P.C. have extensive experience in the negotiation and litigation of all sorts of employment-related disputes and assist clients from Greenwich, Stamford, New Canaan, Darien, Norwalk, Westport and Fairfield in resolving such issues. Please contact our offices at 203-221-3100.

School Secretary Wins $100G Discrimination Suit

After seven years of allegedly suffering constant harassment as well as verbal and physical abuse, School Board 8’s long-time secretary won a $100,000 discrimination settlement with the Board of Education for their lack of disciplining Dennis Coleman. The controversial school board member at the center of the harassment case still remains on the board.

Two years after the lawsuit was filed and weeks before the trial was to begin, Board of Ed officials agreed to settle and pay Maureen Grogan $100,000. Grogan filed a lawsuit against the Board of Ed, former Chancellor Rudy Crew and board members Dennis Coleman and Rose Foley. The long-time secretary claimed that Crew and the Board of Ed did nothing to discipline Coleman after he repeatedly harassed her.

“Think of how many books and blackboards and pencils the Board of Ed could have bought with $100,000,” said Grogan’s attorney Joseph Maya of Maya and Associates, a law firm which specializes in employment discrimination lawsuits. During the course of the pre-trial hearings, Coleman’s counterclaims of slander were thrown out. However, despite the settlement over the way he allegedly harassed his employee over a seven-year period, Coleman remains on the school board. Calls made to him were not returned. Board of Ed officials also did not return the News’ calls.

Lawsuit Details

In the suit, Grogan claimed that she had been the target of harassment and discrimination when she refused to lie in an investigation into age discrimination. Coleman allegedly refused to hire a woman for a position with the school board because she was too old. Grogan told investigators this and was allegedly intimidated from that point on.

According to the lawsuit, in October 1992, Coleman called Grogan at her home and demanded that she recant statements she made to an agent of the Office of Special Investigations. The school board member allegedly threatened Grogan with losing her job with her husband out of work at the time and her two children in college.

Grogan told the Investigations agent about the alleged threats and thereafter was subjected to a daily hostile work environment which included being ignored, shunned and given contradictory instructions and work-related directions. She was also allegedly threatened with innuendoes regarding the timing of her pension vesting. The suit also claimed that Coleman would repeatedly yell at her over trivial matters such as his mail.

As a result, Grogan said she was forced to see a psychiatrist because of the stress placed upon her. She also took an extended leave in 1993. When she returned, Grogan found that most of her work, which included sensitive confidential material was turned over to a temporary office worker who was not a Board of Ed employee and was not qualified to handle confidential material.

Grogan’s Claims

Afterward, Grogan claims Coleman continuously made disparaging comments about her appearance, her intelligence and her ability to understand school board rules and regulations. During one school board meeting in December 1994, Coleman allegedly accused Grogan of discrimination and of being a member of the mafia. Grogan countered by filing a formal complaint alleging that Coleman was discriminating against her and was harassing her. After a review, no action was taken by the Board of Ed.

Grogan claims that after this incident Coleman began to publicly humiliate her at every school board meeting. The secretary wrote a letter to Crew’s office but no action was taken. Then in October 1996, Coleman assaulted Grogan during a heated exchange at a school board meeting. After a review of the matter, Crew scolded Coleman’s actions but did not discipline him.

Grogan was continuously harassed during meetings and on a daily basis until she quit from the strain in June 1999. She then filed a lawsuit against the parties.

By Daniel Gesslein

The lawyers at Maya Murphy, P.C., are experienced and knowledgeable employment law practitioners and assist clients in New York, Bridgeport, Darien, Fairfield, Greenwich, New Canaan, Norwalk, Stamford, Westport, and elsewhere in Fairfield County. Should you have any questions about workplace discrimination or harassment or any other employment law matter or to schedule a consultation, 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.

A Woman’s Rights – 3 Who Fought Back and Won

A cleaning woman, who speaks no English, is raped by a supervisor. A plumber’s boss insists that she change into work clothes in front of male employees. A proofreader is fondled by a coworker. Other employees tell obscene jokes and make sexist remarks. All three women filed complaints with the New York City Commission on Human Rights – and won.

“Discrimination is a strange animal. So many people don’t realize they are doing it,” said Joseph Maya, the attorney who handled the three cases. “I have cases all the time where someone has been subjected to sexual harassment, one of the most traumatic experiences a person could have.”

“Even with such serious charges, often the respondents don’t think they harassed. They think theirs is a natural reaction to a woman.”

Maya said the city agency investigates every complaint, and if someone “fears retaliation, we will prosecute a retaliation complaint too.”

He said the agency also tries to get companies to implement and adopt sexual harassment policies, telling employees it won’t be tolerated.

“Companies could save thousands of dollars by establishing such policies,” said Maya.

The proofreader he represented received $44,200 from her employer. The plumber got $18,000 and a separate changing area. The cleaning woman got an undisclosed amount and all supervisors in her company were required to attend sensitivity training.

The lawyers at Maya Murphy, P.C., are experienced and knowledgeable employment law practitioners and assist clients in New York City, Bridgeport, Darien, Fairfield, Greenwich, New Canaan, Norwalk, Stamford, Westport, and elsewhere throughout Fairfield County. Should you have any questions about sexual harassment or workplace discrimination or would like to schedule a consultation, 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.

A Summary of Sexual Harassment Workplace Policies in Connecticut

Unfortunately, many instances of sexual harassment in the workplace go unreported, due either to a fear of retaliation or uncertainty as to whether the conduct constituted sexual harassment.  Whatever the case, no employee should feel demeaned in any way while on the job.  The following provides an overview of the various laws and regulations concerning sexual harassment in Connecticut, and the various steps employers must take to ensure compliance with the law.

First and foremost, even before consulting an attorney, anyone with questions or concerns relating to human rights or discrimination issues in Connecticut should consult Connecticut’s Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities (CHRO), which states that its mission “is to eliminate discrimination through civil and human rights law enforcement and to establish equal opportunity and justice for all persons within the state through advocacy and education.”  The site provides valuable resources and links.  With regard to sexual harassment, the site contains a step-by-step guide on what to do if you feel you have been the victim of sexual harassment.

The Commission gets its authority from Connecticut General Statute § 46a-54, which grants the Commission the authority to “require an employer having three or more employees to post in a prominent and accessible location information concerning the illegality of sexual harassment and remedies available to victims of sexual harassment,” and second, “to require an employer having fifty or more employees to provide two hours of training and education to all supervisory employees [ . . . ].”  The statute further provides that the training and education “shall include information concerning the federal and state statutory provisions concerning sexual harassment and remedies available to victims of sexual harassment.”

What is sexual harassment?

By way of reference, sexual harassment refers to “any unwelcome sexual advances or requests for sexual favors or any conduct of a sexual nature.”

Employers with 3+ Employees

The information that is required of an employer having three or more employees includes, but is not limited to:

  • The statutory definition of sexual harassment and examples of different types of sexual harassment;
  • Notice that sexual harassment is prohibited by the State of Connecticut’s Discriminatory Employment Practices Law and Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act;
  • The remedies available to a victim of sexual harassment, which can include but are not limited to:
    • Cease and desist orders;
    • Back pay;
    • Compensatory damages; and
    • Hiring, promotion or reinstatement;
  • Notice that the harasser may be subject to civil and/or criminal penalties;
  • The contact information for the CHRO;
  • A statement that Connecticut law requires that a formal written complaint be filed with the Commission within 180 days of the date when the alleged harassment occurred;
  • A large bold-faced notice stating, “Sexual Harassment is Illegal.”
    Employers with 50+ Employees

    An employer with fifty or more employees, in addition to the aforementioned requirements, must provide two hours of specialized sexual harassment training, which “shall be conducted in a classroom-like setting, using clear and understandable language and in a format that allows participants to ask questions and receive answers.”  The statute provides a long list of the specific topics that an employer can and should include in the training.


    It is the hope that the above provides a concise, easy to understand summary of the policies that an employer must abide by when it comes to sexual harassment.  If you feel that you have been the victim of sexual harassment, or even if you are not sure, you should consult with an attorney experienced in employment law.  The attorneys at Maya Murphy, P.C. regularly represent employees throughout the Fairfield County and New York City regions, and are ready to advocate on your behalf.  If you have questions or want to schedule a consultation, please contact Joseph C. Maya, Esq. at 203-221-3100 or at JMaya@mayalaw.com.

    Discrimination Against Spanish-Speaking Worker

    A former saleswoman for the Baccarat store on Madison Avenue was awarded $500,000 by a Federal jury after she testified that the company president complained about her Puerto Rican accent, barred her from speaking Spanish to a co-worker, and finally dismissed her from her job selling crystal and china because of her ethnic origins. Although the saleswoman, Erma Rivera, now 59, had contended that Baccarat Inc. was seeking a more youthful workforce, the jury in Federal District Court in Manhattan did not find that age discrimination played a role in her dismissal in July 1995.

    Losing the job was devastating to Ms. Rivera, who joined Baccarat in October 1986, after selling Haviland porcelain for 15 years, said her lawyer, Joseph C. Maya. “She had spent 25 years of her life teaching newlyweds how to set a place setting and about fine china,” he said. “She loved the company.”

    Ms. Rivera, who lives in Queens and is now employed by a department store bridal registry on Long Island, a job she struggled to find after losing her position at Baccarat, according to Mr. Maya – was unwilling to be interviewed. Her current job pays her about $21,000 a year, much less than she received at Baccarat, where her salary was in the mid-$50,000 range, her lawyer said.

    Case Details

    Ms. Riviera’s troubles at Baccarat did not begin until Mr. Negre was installed, her lawyer said. She testified that Mr. Negre once called her into his office and told her that he did not like her accent, Mr. Maya said.  He said that testimony at the weeklong trial showed that Ms. Rivera, the mother of five children, had an exemplary record at the store and had never prompted a complaint from a customer in her nine years on the sales force.

    In a letter introduced into evidence, a former store manager, J.D. Watts, described her as “the top sales person during my three-year tenure at Baccarat.” “She is fluent in Spanish and is extremely effective when dealing with South American and other Spanish-speaking customers,” Mr. Watts wrote.

    Baccarat’s lawyer, Jeffrey H. Daichman, said that Ms. Rivera was one of five employees fired at roughly the same time because the company’s new president, Jean-Luc Negre, wanted to improve the store’s performance and introduce “a more positive dynamic and energetic attitude toward dealing with customers.” Mr. Negre also made the decision to make the store more inviting by moving it a half-block to a corner site at 59th Street and Madison Avenue, Mr. Daichman said.

    After being named president of the company in 1999, Mr. Negre made seven visits to the store and found the sales force sitting at desks and slow to greet customers, Mr. Daichman said. Ms. Rivera “was not singled out” and was not criticized for speaking with an accent, he said.

    National Origin Discrimination

    Mr. Daichman acknowledged that Ms. Rivera was ordered to refrain from speaking Spanish to a co-worker in the presence of customers. He said the policy was instituted after a customer complained. “It’s just a matter of common sense,” he said. “If the customer is not Spanish-speaking, don’t talk another language. That’s rude.”
    “There was no evidence other than her own testimony about national origin discrimination. “Baccarat has a diverse sales force that includes a Brazilian employee who speaks Spanish as well as Portuguese and three sales people 50 or older, he said.

    Mr. Daichman said the company would ask the Federal magistrate who presided over the case, James C. Francis, to set aside the verdict or order a new trial. The jury found that the company discriminated against Ms. Rivera and awarded her $125,000 in compensatory damages and $375,000 in punitive damages.


    The New York Times Metro Section
    By Terry Pristin – February 10, 1998