Posts tagged with "H. Daniel Murphy"

Fired Teacher Sues for Wrongful Discharge and Defamation

A former middle school teacher who experienced wrongful termination suffered insult upon injury when he was defamed by his principal following his departure from the school, a new lawsuit alleges.

The physical education teacher – who previously had been praised as a “distinguished teacher” by the school – was continually harassed and berated by his supervising principal before ultimately being terminated, as the lawsuit sets forth.  Even after the teacher’s departure from the school, the abuse continued – culminating in the principal making a series of specific, baseless, outrageous statements to the teacher’s former colleagues.

Connecticut Courts Strike Down Unreasonable Non-Compete Agreements

Connecticut Courts Strike Down Unreasonable Non-Compete Agreements

Have you lost your job?  Your career? This economy is brutal and has affected millions of Americans.  Countless people have been fired or laid off, and a lot of folks are struggling to regain their livelihood, especially in the banking industry.  The current job market is lean and extremely competitive, and as a result, finding a replacement job to make ends meet has become difficult.  Remarkably, in some instances, it is not the economy that is preventing these folks from rejoining the ranks of the employed, but rather it is their former employers!

Assume this scenario for a moment.  Stock-Broker was working for JPMorgan in New York City, and her employment ended. She was either let go because of the economy or she just wanted a change in scenery.  After her employment with JPMorgan came to end, she received an offer from Morgan Stanley in Stamford, a competitor with JPMorgan in the investment banking industry.  Morgan Stanley is great.  They give free bagels out for breakfast on Wednesdays.  Stock-Broker decides she wants to take the job with Morgan Stanley, but there is a caveat.

When Stock-Broker began working for JPMorgan she signed an agreement that she would not work for another investment bank within a 60-mile radius for a year. The question then becomes not whether Stock-Broker wants to work for Morgan Stanley, but does the law allow her?  Does this scenario seem familiar to you?  If it does, please continue reading.

What is a Non-Compete Agreement

Typically, when an investment banker begins a career with a new employer, he or she signs a “non-compete” agreement.  This agreement essentially bars a former employee from engaging in a business that competes with the former employer.  This is certainly the case with hundreds of New York investment banks who require their bankers to sign a non-compete before they begin working.  When determining whether Stock-Broker in our hypothetical above can work for another investment bank, the legality of her non-compete agreement must be examined.

How Connecticut Approaches Non-Compete Agreements

In Connecticut, courts take a hard-line approach to non-compete agreements, and usually view them as against public policy.  This does not mean that all non-compete agreements are struck down, however they must be reasonable in order to survive.  To determine the reasonableness of a non-compete agreement, Connecticut courts take numerous factors into account such as the length of time the restriction lasts, the extent of the geographic area the former employee is barred from working in, and the public interest. See Robert S. Weiss & Associates, Inc. v. Wiederlight, 208 Conn. 525, 529 n.2, 546 A.2d 216 (1988).

Under this multiple factor test, if any restriction is found to be unreasonable, then the agreement fails, and the employee is free to work where he or she will.   A non-compete agreement usually fails because the time-limit or geographic boundaries are unreasonable.  Typically, if the agreement restricts the former employee from engaging in a competing business within one year of termination and within a five-mile radius, a Connecticut court will not overturn it.  In contrast, during a non-compete agreement dispute, a Connecticut court quickly struck down a 50-mile radius restriction. See generally Braman Chemicals, Conn. Super. Ct.  LEXIS 3753 (2006).

Furthermore, Connecticut courts have routinely struck down non-compete agreements that restrict anything more than a 35-mile radius.  See e.g., Nesko Corp. v. Fontaine, 19 Conn. Super.  Ct. 160, 110 A.2d 631 (1954); see also Trans-Clean Corp. v. Terrell, Conn. Super. Ct. LEXIS 717 (1998) (court noted that the 60-mile radius from the employer’s home office in Stratford encompassed approximately 75% of the state); see also Timenterial, Inc. v. Dagata, 29 Conn. Super. Ct. 180, 277 A.2d 512 (1971) (50-mile radius restriction held invalid).

Analyzing a Hypothetical Non-Compete Agreement

Apply these factors to our Morgan Stanley hypothetical.  Remember, Stock-Broker signed a non-compete agreement with JPMorgan that provided she would not work for a competing investment bank within a 60-mile radius. Unfortunately for Stock-Broker, Stamford is in Connecticut and only 40 miles away.  Stamford’s location falls within the 60-mile radius in JPMorgan’s non-compete agreement, and thus Stock-Broker would be violating the agreement if she took the job.

Stock-Broker takes the job anyway and JPMorgan sues her.  Stock-Broker argues that her non-compete agreement is unreasonable and therefore invalid.  The Connecticut court will apply the five factor test, and based on past rulings, most likely find that a 60-mile radius is too large of a geographic area.  Subsequently, Stock-Broker will then be allowed to take the position with Morgan Stanley.

Now, let us assume that JP Morgan is also in Stamford, and Stock-Broker signed a non-compete that restricted her from working with a competing business within a 15-mile radius.  JP Morgan sues Stock-Broker and she again argues to invalidate the non-compete for unreasonableness.  This time however, the outcome will be different.  The geographic distance of a 15-mile radius is negligible compared to a 60-mile radius, and Connecticut courts have routinely upheld non-competes that contain such a distance.

Conclusion

Non-compete agreements prevent thousands of stock-brokers from regaining employment in investment banking.  A lot of former employees believe there is nothing that can be done; when in reality a lot of non-compete agreements would most likely not hold up in court.  If you’re a stock-broker who was fired or laid off, and is struggling to find a replacement job in the investment banking world because of your employment contract, call us here at Maya Murphy P.C. and we’ll give you free advice.

Defeating Governmental Immunity: Navigating the Uphill Climb

Lawsuits against the State of Connecticut or its local municipalities are notoriously difficult to pursue from a legal perspective, in large part due to various statutory protections and administrative hurdles put in place by the legislature.  For example, a plaintiff seeking to initiate a personal injury case against her own town must adhere to strict time limitations and procedural requirements in order to have her case successfully get into court and survive the scrutiny of a judge, well before she ever comes close to having a “day in court” before a jury of her peers.

Unless the site of a plaintiff’s injury falls within one of a few narrow exceptions (such as an injury on a “public highway,” which would invoke the protections and mechanisms of Connecticut’s “highway defect statute,” or Connecticut General Statutes Section 13a-149), a plaintiff is entitled only to proceed against a state or municipality under the Political Subdivision Liability Statute (Connecticut General Statutes Section 52-557n).

Section 52-557n, however, contains its own pitfalls for prospective plaintiffs.  The statute provides that a town or political subdivision may be liable for negligent acts of its employees, officers, or agents except if such actions or omissions constitute criminal conduct or willful misconduct, or, significantly, if such negligent acts or omissions require the exercise of judgment or discretion as an official function of the job responsibility.

The latter part of this test is key – and is a gold mine for municipalities (and their lawyers) seeking to invoke the governmental immunity doctrine and escape liability for the negligence of its employees, even if such negligence is established by an injured person.  What the provision states, in plain language, is that a town may well be free and clear from liability if the task that was performed negligently was a task that required an exercise of judgment on the part of the town employee.

Take the hypothetical example of a plaintiff who was injured when she slipped on ice on the front steps of City Hall.  The evidence suggests that the maintenance workers either knew or should have known that ice had built up on the steps, that they were expecting the public to be walking in and out of the building, and that someone clearly “dropped the ball” in making sure that the ice was scraped off and that salt or sand was applied generously to the area.  Instead, nothing was done, nothing was scraped, no sand or salt was used, no warning signs were posted, and the ice remained for several business days before this plaintiff came along and fell on her very first visit to City Hall.

Even with these simplified facts (which appear at first blush to be quite damaging to the City), the City will surely investigate the existence of any policy, procedure, and practice of those maintenance workers who were assigned to the front steps of the building.  In this case, the City will attempt to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that “judgment” and “discretion” of the City employees were required to be exercised to keep those steps free of snow and ice.  On the contrary, a plaintiff will seek to demonstrate that the actions (or omissions) of the City workers were “ministerial” – that is, the workers had a clear directive to do something (e.g. to clear the ice at certain times, in a certain manner, with no exercise of judgment) and yet they failed to carry out that task, resulting in the plaintiff’s injury.

When the proverbial dust settles, if no clear, articulated policy existed to clear the steps, to inspect the steps on a scheduled basis, or to take preventative measures against ice buildup, a municipal defendant in this instance would likely argue (perhaps successfully) that the maintenance workers were required not to follow any protocol, but only to “use their judgment and discretion” in determining what needed to be kept safe and clear for pedestrian traffic.

An unknowing plaintiff (or perhaps an inexperienced attorney) who advances her case against a town believing that a jury would be shocked if there is no snow removal policy might find herself equally shocked when or if it is determined that any negligence was of a “discretionary” nature and governmental immunity therefore applies, subject to other very narrow legal exceptions not discussed here.

A savvy plaintiff, in discovery and at the very outset of the lawsuit, might request that the town admit, under oath and in writing, to the existence of a clear and articulated policy (even if it is unwritten) with regard to the safety issue which resulted in her injury.  While towns (and their attorneys) are often eager to show that preventative measures are and were in place, in this instance, they may well eliminate – as a matter of law – their own sacred protection of governmental immunity at trial.  With a valid legal admission of a clear and articulated policy, a municipal defendant is effectively hamstrung – it cannot simultaneously admit to the existence of a policy and directive while claiming that its employees were simply exercising their own judgment.  Dramatically and emphatically, the curtain of governmental immunity draws away, paving the way for a plaintiff to reach the eyes and ears of a jury.

An injured person seeking legal assistance as against the state or a municipality faces a virtual hornet’s nest of obstacles and legal entanglements.  A trusted, informed advocate is essential to place such a claim in the best possible legal position.  The invitation is open to consulting with attorneys at our firm who are experienced in this type of civil litigation.

If you have questions regarding any personal injury matter, contact Joseph Maya at 203-221-3100 or by email at JMaya@MayaLaw.com.

Sexual Harassment in the Workplace: Defeating an Employer’s Defenses

A victim of sexual harassment in the workplace has certain available protections and remedies under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, with respect to unwanted amorous advances, inappropriate touching, or an outright physical assault by another employee or co-worker.  Essentially, a victim of sexual harassment must prove in a civil lawsuit that the harassment was “sufficiently severe or pervasive” to alter the conditions of her employment, and that there was a specific basis for imputing the resulting hostile work environment to her employer (and not merely to the harasser).

Under what has become known as the Faragher/Ellerth defense, employers since 1998 have been permitted by the courts to put forth and establish an affirmative defense to victims’ lawsuits against inappropriately behaving employees, so long as they are able to prove one of two things: A) that the victim unreasonably failed to take advantage of a company’s established procedures and opportunities to prevent sexual harassment (such as policies, training, and complaint mechanisms through human resources), or B) that the victim employee complained about the conduct and the employer took prompt and appropriate corrective action (such as an investigation, discipline, and/or termination of the harasser).

If a defendant company succeeds in proving one of these two elements, that company may not be held liable for the sexual harassment of one of its employees, even under some egregious circumstances.  Today, many companies have policies and procedures in place, and in most circumstances, a company can successfully claim that it would have been “unreasonable” for a victim not to complain about a harasser’s misconduct and to put the company on notice when something untoward occurs.

However, sometimes victims do not complain right away.  In some cases, the harassment is committed by a supervisor – someone in a position of power over the victim, with a stranglehold on the victim’s voice, on her employment, on her will.

Our law makes adjustments accordingly.  Therefore, where the harassment is committed not just by a co-worker of the victim, but by the victim’s work supervisor, the standard shifts dramatically – the employer company is “presumptively responsible” for the harasser’s conduct.  In that instance, also, there is a proscribed limitation under which an employer can put forth the Faragher/Ellerth defense and potentially escape liability.  Specifically, the test becomes whether the supervisor’s harassment (or unwanted sexual advance) culminated in what is known as a “tangible employment action” – such as a demotion, a denial of a promotion, a change in job responsibilities, or a termination of employment.

In other words, in cases of supervisor-subordinate harassment, a trial court applies a test to determine whether the tangible employment action is “linked” in some fashion to the supervisor’s discriminatory harassment.  If indeed a connection is found – if a supervisor, for example, ultimately fires his victim of sexual harassment for fear she will disclose his reprehensible conduct to others – then the Faragher/Ellerth affirmative defense is not available to the employer company.  The purpose of this rule is to insure that, despite the procedures they might put in place to protect their employees from sexual harassment, companies may and often will be held liable and accountable for the actions of supervisors who harass their subordinates and then utilize their positions of power to remove their victims from the workplace.

If you are the victim of sexual harassment in the workplace, we urge you to seek legal advice immediately and to learn your rights.  Our firm has decades of experience in successfully handling sexual harassment and discrimination cases throughout New York and Connecticut, in both state and federal courts.  Our clients present us with the facts; we arm them with the law and the aggressive, informed advocacy to seek justice on their behalf.

If you have any questions about this posting or confidential inquiries concerning the subject matter, please contact Attorney H. Daniel Murphy at hdmurphy@mayalaw.com.

Leading Divorce Law Firm in Fairfield County Connecticut: Maya Murphy

Maya Murphy’s Matrimonial Law Group consists of a dedicated team of lawyers committed to representing its clients through the most complex divorce proceedings. As a significant portion of our Matrimonial Law Group’s client base consists of high net worth individuals, we have experience dealing with the valuation and division of a variety of assets including businesses, residential and commercial real estate, high-end personal property, trusts, various retirement vehicles, as well as stocks, bonds and other securities. Our matrimonial lawyers also counsel the Firm’s clients through the formation and execution of pre-marital agreements, and often collaborate with our Trusts & Estates Group regarding issues involving trusts, testamentary instruments and estate planning. With attorneys licensed to practice in Connecticut and New York, we routinely handle cases originating in Fairfield County, Westchester County and New York City.

Our Matrimonial Law Group represents clients in dissolution and separation proceedings, custody and child support cases, as well as post-judgment custody and support modifications. Our matrimonial lawyers handle each and every case professionally and diligently. Though we aggressively litigate our more acrimonious cases when required, we always take into account the individual and unique needs, position and desires of each client, and recognize the importance of negotiating settlements when appropriate. Our matrimonial lawyers are well versed in the mediation process as well, and are often retained in a neutral capacity, providing our clients with an alternative to the traditional adversarial divorce model.

Maya Murphy’s Matrimonial Law Group is dedicated to providing its clients with high quality representation, including a thorough knowledge of the law, unsurpassed attention to detail, unwavering client support and constant preparedness. We understand that our clients are often in the worst situations they will ever personally encounter, and seek, at every turn, to alleviate their fears while protecting and advancing their interests in a court of law.

To discuss a case please contact Joseph C. Maya or H. Daniel Murphy at (203) 221-3100 in Connecticut or (212) 682-5700 in New York. Mr. Maya can be reached via e-mail at JMaya@Mayalaw.com and Mr. Murphy can be reached via e-mail at HDMurphy@Mayalaw.com.
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Our family law firm in Westport Connecticut serves clients with divorce, matrimonial, and family law issues from all over the state including the towns of: Bethel, Bridgeport, Brookfield, Danbury, Darien, Easton, Fairfield, Greenwich, Monroe, New Canaan, New Fairfield, Newton, Norwalk, Redding, Ridgefield, Shelton, Sherman, Stamford, Stratford, Trumbull, Weston, Westport, and Wilton. We have the best divorce attorneys and family attorneys in CT on staff that can help with your Connecticut divorce or New York divorce today.

If you have any questions or would like to speak to a divorce law attorney about a divorce or familial matter, please don’t hesitate to call our office at (203) 221-3100. We offer free divorce consultation as well as free consultation on all other familial matters. Divorce in CT and divorce in NYC is difficult, but education is power. Call our family law office in CT today.

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Fairfield County Divorce Guidebook: A Roadmap to Matrimonial Law in Connecticut

The matrimonial law group at Maya Murphy PC has published a 66-page publication devoted exclusively to the subject of matrimonial law in Connecticut. Intended as a guide for divorcing spouses, the publication covers the major areas, concerns, and focal points of family law cases in our court system. Husbands and wives confronted with the difficult prospect of divorce are encouraged to read the guidebook in order to demystify the process and to enable them to better communicate with their attorney of choice.

The publication may be viewed by following this link: Fairfield County Divorce Guidebook.

Should you have any questions regarding family law representation in Fairfield County, Connecticut, or New York, please contact Attorney H. Daniel Murphy at the firm’s Westport office, at (203) 221-3100 or hdmurphy@mayalaw.com.

Copyright © 2012 · Maya Murphy, P.C.
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Our firm in Westport serves clients with divorce, matrimonial, and family law issues from all over the state including the towns of: Bethel, Bridgeport, Brookfield, Danbury, Darien, Easton, Fairfield, Greenwich, Monroe, New Canaan, New Fairfield, Newton, Norwalk, Redding, Ridgefield, Shelton, Sherman, Stamford, Stratford, Trumbull, Weston, Westport, and Wilton.

If you have any questions or would like to speak to an attorney about a divorce or familial matter, please don’t hesitate to call our office at (203) 221-3100 for a free consultation. Divorce is difficult, education is power. Call today.

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