Posts tagged with "hiring"

Implied Duty to Not Disclose Accounts and Trade Secrets and Exceptions to the Rule

Booth Waltz Enterprises v. Kimlingen, 2004 Conn. Super. LEXIS 2682

Booth Waltz Enterprises was an automotive and industrial lubricant distributor based in Hartford, Connecticut that transacted with auto dealers, fleet owners, and public entities.  Mr. Kevin Kimlingen worked for Booth Waltz as a sale representative from April 2000 to October 2003.  Booth Waltz’s management was impressed by Mr. Kimlingen’s practice of “rolling”, the art of convincing his customers to follow him to a new employer.  He “rolled” forty-five accounts to Booth Waltz within his first month at the company.

Booth Waltz took advantage of Mr. Kimlingen’s talents to acquire many new clients when the company hired him but it was very cognizant that it would have to take measures to protect its interests given his history of mobility and “rolling” within the industry.  In the summer of 2003, Booth Waltz prepared a non-solicitation agreement for its employees to better regulate the activities of its sales staff.  Mr. Kimlingen expressed great reluctance to sign the restrictive covenant when he received it in October 2003 and Booth Waltz assumed he resigned from its employ when he failed sign the agreement or attend a mandatory staff meeting.

Customer Solicitation 

Mr. Kimlingen began to work for U.S. Lubes, a direct industry competitor, and he began “rolling” his Booth Waltz accounts to his new employer.  Booth Waltz sued Mr. Kimlingen in Connecticut state court and sought injunctive relief to prevent any further solicitations of its customers.  Booth Waltz argued that although Mr. Kimlingen may not have breached an actual restrictive covenant, his actions violated the Connecticut Uniform Trade Secrets Act, which by default prohibited certain competitive activities.

The company argued that the customer lists Mr. Kimlingen took with him to his new employer was Booth Waltz’s sensitive and proprietary information.  Former employees may compete with a former employer in the absence of a non-compete agreement, but he or she is still bound by a duty to not disclose trade secrets or confidential information acquired during his or her employment to the detriment of the former employer.

The Court’s Decision

The court ultimately held that Mr. Kimlingen did not violate a covenant or implied duty by “rolling” clients from Booth Waltz to U.S. Lube.  A vast majority of these accounts had long-standing relationships with Mr. Kimlingen that pre-dated his employment with Booth Waltz.  The court concluded that these customer relationships were not property of Booth Waltz and the company had no authority or legal right to label the contact information as its proprietary information.

The court noted, “in the absence of a covenant not to compete, an employee who possessed the relevant customer information prior to the former employment is free to use the information in competition with the employer after termination of the employment relationship” (Restatement (Third), Unfair Competition § 42, comment f), and denied Booth Waltz’s request for an injunctive in light of no legally binding restrictive covenant or an implied duty.

The lawyers at Maya Murphy, P.C., are experienced and knowledgeable employment and corporate law practitioners and assist clients in New York, Bridgeport, Darien, Fairfield, Greenwich, New Canaan, Norwalk, Stamford, Westport, and elsewhere in Fairfield County.  If you have any questions relating to your non-compete agreement or would like to discuss any element of your employment agreement, please contact Joseph C. Maya, Esq. by phone at (203) 221-3100 or via e-mail at

Court Grants Motion for Transfer to California District Court in Non-Compete Agreement Dispute

United Rentals, Inc. v. Pruett, 296 F. Supp.2d 220

United Rentals, Inc. was a Delaware corporation with headquarters in Connecticut that employed Mr. Lawrence Pruett from May 2001 until August 2003 in its San Juan Capistrano, CA office.  He first worked as a salesperson and then the company promoted him to branch manager.  Mr. Pruett signed an Employment Agreement after verbally accepting the branch manager position wherein he agreed to restrictive covenants preventing employment with a competitor, soliciting the company’s customers, or from disclosing trade secrets.  The agreement contained a choice of law provision that stated Connecticut law would govern legal disputes arising from the agreement and that courts (federal or state) in Fairfield County had exclusive jurisdiction.

Mr. Pruett abruptly resigned in August 2003, began to work for one of United’s competitors, Brookstone Equipment Services, and allegedly solicited United’s customers.  United Rentals sued Mr. Pruett in federal court for violation of the non-compete agreement and requested that the United States District Court of Connecticut enforce the provisions of the agreement.  Mr. Pruett however submitted motions to dismiss and to transfer the case to a court in California, where he lived and worked.

Motion to Dismiss

The court denied Mr. Pruett’s motion to dismiss but granted his motion for transfer, handing the case over to the Central District of California.  The central issues of the case were the enforceability of the forum selection clause and the court’s ability to transfer the case to another district court.  Mr. Pruett argued that it was unenforceable because he “lacked notice of its existence, because the clause is unreasonable, and because it was the product of United’s overreaching”.

The court mentioned two United States Supreme Court cases, M/S Bremen v. Zapata Off-Shore Co., 407 U.S. 1 (1972), and Carnival Cruise Lines, Inc. v. Shute, 499 U.S. 585 (1991) to establish the federal judicial system’s attitude toward forum selection clauses and their enforceability.  In Bremen, the court held that the clauses are valid and enforceable so long as there is no showing that it would be unreasonable or unjust.  This case reversed American courts’ “long-standing hostility to forum selection clauses”.  In Carnival, the court held that a forum selection clause was enforceable only if both parties were aware of its existence.

In the current case, the court denied the motion to dismiss and found that the clause was reasonable and that the written contract had indeed provided Mr. Pruett with adequate notice of its existence.

Motion for Transfer

The court did however grant Mr. Pruett’s motion for transfer under 28 U.S.C. 1404(a) which authorizes district courts to transfer civil action to other districts “for the convenience of parties and witness, [and] in the interest of justice”.  In reaching this decision, the court analyzed the convenience of the parties, the existence of the forum selection clause, and factors of systemic integrity and fairness.

Mr. Pruett bore the burden of proof to show that the transfer was in the best interest of justice and the court concluded that he meant his burden.  All the witnesses for the case lived in California, the actions that led to the suit took place in California, and the vast majority of documentary evidence (sales records, advertising information, customer lists, etc.) was in California.  With regard to justice, United Rentals asserted that a transfer to a district court in California would deprive it of uniform treatment of its employment contracts.

The court recognized that Connecticut and California law greatly differ on their treatment of non-compete agreements but concluded that California had a materially greater interest in the case “because the impact of this litigation will be felt entirely in California”.  Furthermore, the court noted that California had a right to apply its own laws in order to protect its residents from anti-competitive measures by out-of-state employers that are contrary to California’s established public policy.

This case demonstrates that the convenience of the parties and the interests of justice can at times outweigh a contractual forum selection clause.  The court analyzed these factors and concluded that the facts surrounding the case favored a transfer of venues to a district court in California.

The lawyers at Maya Murphy, P.C., are experienced and knowledgeable employment and corporate law practitioners and assist clients in New York, Bridgeport, Darien, Fairfield, Greenwich, New Canaan, Norwalk, Stamford, Westport, and elsewhere in Fairfield County.  If you have any questions relating to your non-compete agreement or would like to discuss any element of your employment agreement, please contact Joseph C. Maya, Esq. by phone at (203) 221-3100 or via e-mail at

Court Invalidates Non-Compete Agreement for Excessive Restraint of Trade

CT Cellar Doors, LLC v. Palamar, 2010 Conn. Super. LEXIS 3247

CT Cellar Doors was a Connecticut company owned by Mr. Claude Raffin that designed and installed custom metal basement entry doors, windows, and other accessories.  Mr. Raffin hired Mr. Stephen Palamar in January 2006 as an installer and later promoted him to operations foreman on August 21, 2007.  The promotion involved a substantial pay raise conditioned on Mr. Palamar signing a “non-competition-non-disclosure agreement”.  The parties executed the restrictive covenant wherein Mr. Palamar agreed to not compete with CT Cellar Doors anywhere within the state of Connecticut for three years following his termination from the company.

Mr. Palamar voluntarily terminated his employment on May 24, 2010, registered himself as a home improvement contractor with the Connecticut Department of Consumer Affairs, and began doing business as Custom Cellar Doors.  His new company advertised and performed the same services he performed while in CT Cellar Door’s employ.

The Dispute 

CT Cellar Doors sued Mr. Palamar in Connecticut court for “irreparable harm to its goodwill, reputation, and name” and requested injunctive relief because there was no adequate remedy at law.  Both parties agreed that the central issue of the case was “whether the agreement was enforceable under Connecticut law”.  The court and parties likewise recognized that CT Cellar Doors had the burden to show that both parties signed the agreement and that Mr. Palamar had violated its provisions.  Once/if those were established, then Mr. Palamar bore the burden to show that the agreement was unenforceable.

The parties did not dispute, as a matter of fact, that the agreement was signed and that Mr. Palamar violated its terms.  The dispute is over whether, as a matter of law, the agreement is valid and enforceable.  The court ultimately found in favor of Mr. Palamar and held that the agreement executed by the parties was unreasonable and unenforceable.

The Defense’s Argument

Mr. Palamar presented two arguments to address whether the agreement was reasonable under Connecticut law: 1) the agreement had inadequate consideration and 2) it was an unreasonable restraint of trade.  The court rejected the first argument, noted the substantial pay raise Mr. Palamar received, and held that it constituted adequate consideration.

Although that defense failed, the court agreed with Mr. Palamar that the agreement was an excessive restraint of trade and the agreement was unreasonable because it denied him the right to earn a living in his chosen profession that he had had for twenty-five years.  The court also noted that CT Cellar Doors did not present adequate evidence to demonstrate that they had experienced or were likely to experience irreparable harm.  At the time that litigation began, CT Cellar Doors had fifty clients while Mr. Palamar only had two.  CT Cellar Doors was not able to articulate a claim and present evidence that Mr. Palamar’s actions had damaged its business operations.

While CT Cellar Doors had a legitimate business interest to protect, the provisions of the non-compete went too far and placed oppressive occupational restraints on Mr. Palamar and excessively restricted his ability to secure future employment in his chose profession.  This lack of balance between the interests of the parties ultimately led the court to find the restrictions unreasonable and for it to invalidate the non-compete agreement.

The lawyers at Maya Murphy, P.C., are experienced and knowledgeable employment and corporate law practitioners and assist clients in New York, Bridgeport, Darien, Fairfield, Greenwich, New Canaan, Norwalk, Stamford, Westport, and elsewhere in Fairfield County.  If you have any questions relating to your non-compete agreement or would like to discuss any element of your employment agreement, please contact Joseph C. Maya, Esq. by phone at (203) 221-3100 or via e-mail at

Court Grants Legal and Equitable Relief in Breach of Non-Compete Agreement

National Truck Emergency Road Service, Inc. v. Peloquin, 2011 Conn. Super. LEXIS 2393

National Truck Emergency Road Service, Inc. (National Truck) was a Massachusetts corporation that engaged in interstate commerce by providing emergency road service to heavy and medium duty trucks and vans for local and national fleets.  The company hired Mr. Barry Peloquin on August 25, 2008, to work as a customer service representative.  The next day, the parties executed a non-compete agreement that prohibited Mr. Peloquin, for five years following termination, from working at a competing company within five hundred miles of the company’s headquarters located at 320 Main Street, Southbridge, MA.

The agreement also stated that Mr. Peloquin was obligated to return any company property upon termination and contained a non-disclosure provision.  Most importantly however, the covenant not to compete stipulated that in the event of a breach, National Truck would be entitled to “remedies allowed by law and equity”, therefore permitting National Truck to receive monetary damages and injunctive relief.

National Truck terminated Mr. Peloquin on October 20, 2009 and he soon found employment with a competing company in Connecticut and began servicing National Truck’s customer YRC.  The company sued Mr. Peloquin for illegally appropriating company lists and other protected intellectual property in conjunction with violating the non-compete agreement executed by the parties.

The company asked the court to enforce the provisions of the non-compete and to order Mr. Peloquin to return all proprietary documents he took home during his employment with National Truck.  The court found in favor of National Truck and granted both equitable and legal relief, although the injunction only addressed returning.

The Court’s Decision 

The court heard expert witness testimony and concluded that National Truck had $32,493.00 in damages directly attributable to illegal competition from Mr. Peloquin.  The company experienced an unusual and dramatic drop off in business from YRC commencing shortly after Mr. Peloquin’s termination.  Mr. Peloquin’s action created adverse financial consequences for National Truck, visible in the company’s lost profits and incurred expenses.

While damages are not generally awarded in cases involving breach of a non-compete agreement, the agreement itself specifically stipulated that the employer (National Truck) would be entitled to them should the employee (Mr. Peloquin) violate the covenant.  The court awarded National Truck the $32,493.00 in damages plus attorney’s fees and court costs.

The court was only willing to grant a portion of the injunctive relief sought by National Truck.  It ordered that Mr. Peloquin return all National Truck documents within thirty days and abide by the non-disclosure clause.  The court’s ruling however did not prevent his further employment with his current company because the court concluded that National Truck did not present adequate evidence to show that Mr. Peloquin violated the non-compete since litigation began or that he was likely to do so in the future.  Without demonstrating the imminent threat of irreparable harm, National Truck was not entitled to injunctive relief with this specific matter.

The lawyers at Maya Murphy, P.C., are experienced and knowledgeable employment and corporate law practitioners and assist clients in New York, Bridgeport, Darien, Fairfield, Greenwich, New Canaan, Norwalk, Stamford, Westport, and elsewhere in Fairfield County.  If you have any questions relating to your non-compete agreement or would like to discuss any element of your employment agreement, please contact Joseph C. Maya, Esq. by phone at (203) 221-3100 or via e-mail at

Court Denies Enforcement Due to Inconsistencies & Absence of Valid Contract

Luongo Construction & Development, LLC v. Keim, 2008 Conn. Super. LEXIS 1182

Luongo Construction & Development was a limited liability corporation organized under Connecticut law with headquarters in Wallingford, CT that was engaged in the modular home industry.  The company employed Mr. Melvin Keim at its office and allegedly executed a “Non-Compete Agreement” with him on March 15, 2006.

The agreement prohibited Mr. Keim from competing with Luongo by engaging in the modular home industry within fifty miles of Wallingford, CT for a period of five years following his termination.  Luongo brought an action against Mr. Keim to enforce the provisions of the non-compete agreement when he began to work for another company in the same industry.

The Employment Agreement

The court rejected Luongo’s request for injunctive relief and enforcement of the agreement because it concluded that there was no valid or enforceable contract executed by the parties.  Luongo submitted the non-compete agreement to the court in two forms: first as an attachment to its application for preliminary injunctive relief (hereafter referred to as “Attachment”) and then as “Exhibit A” for evidence during the hearings regarding its application for an injunction (hereafter referred to as “Exhibit”).

The court noted that while the documents had similarities, there were many significant differences.  Firstly, the court identified that the documents were both photocopies since the originals could not be located, they were generic agreements that did not specifically mention Mr. Keim’s name, were dated March 15, 2006, and bore the same three signatures (Mr. Michael Luongo, Mr. Keim, and Mr. Robert G. Wetmore, the witness and Commissioner of the Superior Court).

The court went on to identify the numerous differences between the two documents and concluded that they were material differences that substantially affected the nature of the agreement’s obligations and validity.  The following differences were cited as damaging to the agreements’ integrity and enforceability: Attachment contained a different provision concerning working for a competing business, Attachment prohibited engagement in the “financial planning business” while Exhibit prohibited engagement in the “modular home business”, and the documents had significant drafting differences with respect to their provisions and formatting.  Furthermore, the court noted that the parties were never in each other’s presence to actually witness the other party sign the agreements.

The Court’s Analysis and Decision

After an in-depth analysis of the agreements and taking testimony from both side, the court held that there was not a valid and legally enforceable contract executed by the parties.  The court specifically stated that “The inconsistency of these two agreement also militates toward the court’s finding that there is insufficient evidence to support a probable cause finding of a bona fide agreement signed by the parties”.

In order for parties to create a valid contract, there has be an offer and acceptance between the parties based on a mutual understanding of the terms and obligations.  Courts have long held that mutual assent or a meeting of minds is required for a valid and legally binding contract.  In this case, the court concluded that there was not an enforceable employment contract between the parties and subsequently denied Luongo’s request for injunctive relief to enforce the provisions of the non-compete agreement.

The lawyers at Maya Murphy, P.C., are experienced and knowledgeable employment and corporate law practitioners and assist clients in New York, Bridgeport, Darien, Fairfield, Greenwich, New Canaan, Norwalk, Stamford, Westport, and elsewhere in Fairfield County.  If you have any questions relating to your non-compete agreement or would like to discuss any element of your employment agreement, please contact Joseph C. Maya, Esq. by phone at (203) 221-3100 or via e-mail at

Breach and Irreparable Harm Required for Enforcement of Non-Compete Agreement

Opticare, P.C. v. Zimmerman, 2008 Conn. Super. LEXIS 759

Opticare, P.C. was a company engaged in the business of offering optometry and ophthalmology services to patients.  A sister company, Opticare Eye Health Centers, Inc., was created in 1995 to provide management services to Opticare, operate an ambulatory surgical center, and own/operate retail eye-wear stores.  Opticare employed Dr. Neal Zimmerman as an ophthalmologist specializing in vitreoretinal surgery from April 1984 to November 10, 2006.  He signed several employment agreements with Opticare during his time as an employee with the company and each one contained a non-compete clause that would become effective upon Dr. Zimmerman’s termination.

The restrictive covenant stated that Dr. Zimmerman was prohibited for eighteen months after his termination from offering medical services at a competing company located with a restricted area that was a hexagon ranging from fifteen to thirty miles from where he practiced his profession.  The non-compete agreements also specified that Dr. Zimmerman was required to provide one year notice of voluntary termination if he intended to continue to practice medicine in the state of Connecticut.

On September 6, 2006, Dr. Zimmerman provided a sixty-day notice of voluntary termination to Opticare’s management and shortly thereafter, five other physicians tendered their resignation from the company.  He began providing ophthalmological services on January 2, 2007 at a new office located in Prospect, Connecticut, a mere four miles from Opticare’s office in Waterbury and clearly within the prohibited area according to the non-compete agreement.  He testified that approximately 50% of his current patients were former patients of Opticare, his former employer.  Opticare sued Dr. Zimmerman for breach of the non-compete agreement and asked the court to grant injunctive relief by enforcing the restrictions enumerated in the agreement.

The Court’s Decision

After weighing the evidence presented by the parties, the court held in favor of Dr. Zimmerman and concluded that the non-compete agreement was not enforceable.  Dr. Zimmerman admitted he violated the agreement based on the face value of its terms but raised questions regarding the legality of the covenant and argued that he was not obligated to refrain from further activities at his new practice.  The court weighed the evidence to evaluate whether Dr. Zimmerman’s breach of the agreement had any negative impact on Opticare’s business operations or that the company had incurred irreparable harm.

It ultimately found that Opticare failed to present sufficient evidence to prove that it experienced either of these detriments and the court noted that Opticare was “still in business and there was no showing that the business is close to ruination or has been permanently harmed in any way”.  Breach alone, according to the court, is insufficient to demonstrate that an injunction is necessary.  A moving party must demonstrate breach and incurred or imminent irreparable harm in order to be successful with a request for injunctive relief.

The lawyers at Maya Murphy, P.C., are experienced and knowledgeable employment and corporate law practitioners and assist clients in New York, Bridgeport, Darien, Fairfield, Greenwich, New Canaan, Norwalk, Stamford, Westport, and elsewhere in Fairfield County.  If you have any questions relating to your non-compete agreement or would like to discuss any element of your employment agreement, please contact Joseph C. Maya, Esq. by phone at (203) 221-3100 or via e-mail at

Court Amends Time Restriction for Engineering Firm Non-Compete Agreement

Maintenance Technologies International, LLC v. Vega, 2006 Conn. Super. LEXIS 136

Maintenance Technologies International, LLC (MTI) was a Milford, Connecticut-based company that offered highly specialized engineering maintenance services to clients.  The company employed Mr. Daniel Vega as an engineer from February 25, 2002, to October 7, 2005.  His responsibilities for this position included conducting vibration analysis, infrared thermography, motor testing, and laser alignment.  He signed a covenant not to compete as part of his employment agreement with the company.

The restrictive covenant prohibited Mr. Vega, for a period of two years following termination, from engaging in competing business activities within one hundred fifty miles of MTI’s current principal place of business.  The agreement further stated that he could not own any stock in a competing business located within one hundred fifty miles of MTI’s principal place of business.

Breach of the Employment Agreement 

Mr. Vega informed his superiors that he would be voluntarily terminating his employment with the company due to family related issues and his personal ambition to finish his master’s degree in theology.  Once he quit MTI however, he began to work for Schultz Electric Co., a competing company with major offices in Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, and New Jersey.

MTI’s management interpreted this move as a violation of the non-compete agreement executed when Mr. Vega’s employment with the company started and sued him in Connecticut state court.  The company requested that the court enforce the provisions of the restrictive covenant in order to prevent any further violations of the agreement.  The court found in favor of MTI, granted the company’s request for an injunction, but amended the time restriction to be only one year, instead of the two-year period as stipulated in the agreement.

The Court’s Decision

In reaching its decision, the court assessed whether MTI had a legitimate interest that needed protection and whether the restrictions in the non-compete agreement were reasonable in scope.  The court recognized that the company spent a great deal of resources on training its employees and this created a valid interest according to the court.

Furthermore, the employees were on the front lines with regard to the business relationships with MTI’s customers and had direct access to proprietary and confidential information.  The court held that a company’s employees and customer relationships are its most valuable assets and are worthy of protection under Connecticut law.  Injunctive relief, therefore, was reasonably necessary for the fair protection of the employer’s business interests.

Next, the court examined whether the specific restriction contained in the agreement were reasonable in scope.  The court held that they amounted to a reasonable and legitimate restriction of Mr. Vega’s ability to work.  They provided an adequate amount of protection to MTI while not overreaching and unnecessarily restricting Mr. Vega’s ability to secure future employment.  The limitations still allowed many viable career options for Mr. Vega.

The court did however slightly amend the time restriction.  It was concerned that the full two years could prove to be “somewhat inequitable” and reduced the restriction to one year, instructing the parties that they could submit arguments prior to the expiration of the one year regarding a potential extension to the full two years as stipulated in the covenant not to compete.

The lawyers at Maya Murphy, P.C., are experienced and knowledgeable employment and corporate law practitioners and assist clients in New York, Bridgeport, Darien, Fairfield, Greenwich, New Canaan, Norwalk, Stamford, Westport, and elsewhere in Fairfield County.  If you have any questions relating to your non-compete agreement or would like to discuss any element of your employment agreement, please contact Joseph C. Maya, Esq. by phone at (203) 221-3100 or via e-mail at

Tenured Teacher’s Wrongful Termination Claims Dismissed for Failure to Exhaust Administrative Remedies

This past June, the Superior Court of Connecticut, Judicial District of Stamford-Norwalk at Stamford granted a school district’s motion to dismiss a wrongful termination lawsuit by a teacher, who claimed he was fired because of his disability. Rather than reaching the merits of the case, the Court stated it lacked jurisdiction. This case illuminates the importance for teachers and staff to first exhaust all administrative remedies, including enumerated appeals processes, before seeking recourse with the courts.

Case Details

The teacher was a tenured physical education teacher at a public middle school in Norwalk when he allegedly became the target of continuous, inappropriate harassment and threats made by the school principal. The teacher sought therapy and was diagnosed with a chronic traumatic stress disorder, and the licensed therapist suggested that he seek reassignment to another school district. The teacher informed the school district of this recommendation, though he was denied a transfer to a physical education teacher position at another school within the district. Approximately one year later, the teacher was discharged and filed a lawsuit, alleging, in part, wrongful termination on the basis of mental disability discrimination.

The school district filed a motion to dismiss these counts, arguing that the teacher “failed to exhaust his administrative and statutory remedies pursuant to the Teacher Tenure Act, General Statutes § 10-151.”[1] Therefore, the school district argued, the court did not have subject matter jurisdiction to adjudicate the teacher’s claims. The teacher countered that a § 10-151 was not the only remedy he could seek: rather, he could bring his wrongful discharge course of action under the Connecticut Fair Employment Practices Act, or CFEPA. In addition, the teacher asserted that exhaustion was not required because “it would have been futile for him to pursue his claims with the board of education.”[2]

Administrative Remedies Under § 10-151

Connecticut courts have consistently found that “[a] tenured teacher’s challenge of an allegedly wrongful discharge, is governed by and limited to the statutory appeal process provided by § 10-151(e)… Thus, the plaintiff cannot pursue a separate tort claim for wrongful discharge. Instead, she is limited by the available administrative remedies under § 10-151.”[3] Thus, a court will not have jurisdiction unless the tenured teacher exhausted his administrative remedies or an exception to the exhaustion doctrine applies.[4]

The administrative remedies of § 10-151 can be outlined as follows:

  1. Prior to termination: written notice that termination is being considered must be given to the tenured teacher
  2. Within 7 days of receipt of notice in #1: teacher must file written request asking for reasons for termination
  3. Within 7 days of receipt of request in #2: written statement outlining the reasons must be supplied to the tenured teacher
  4. Within 20 days of receipt of statement from #3: teacher must file a written request for a hearing
  5. Within 15 days of receipt of request in #4: the hearing must be held

After the teacher received the written statement with the reasons for termination, he did not file a written request for a hearing. He asserted that he was:

[A]dvised by my attorney that the Norwalk [t]eachers [u]nion [p]resident, who was about to retire, was unsupportive of teachers in the [s]chool [d]istrict and would not assist them in termination hearings, would not bring grievances on their behalf and would not cooperate in terms of designating a teacher representative to the impartial hearing panel. Thus, I was advised by [my attorney] that a hearing pursuant to [s]ection 10-151(d) would be futile.[5]

The Court’s Decision

However, the Court was not persuaded on the teacher’s futility claim, which is a valid exception the exhaustion rule, because he failed to demonstrate that it “would have been futile for him to request a § 10-151(d) hearing.” The purpose of this hearing is “to resolve the question of whether any of the asserted grounds for termination is supported by the evidence adduced at the hearing.”[6] In this case, “if the plaintiff had requested the hearing afforded to him pursuant to § 10-151(d), he could have presented evidence demonstrating that the defendants sought to fire him for an illegal and discriminatory reason.”[7] 

Therefore, his tactical decision amounted to a deliberate decision to not avail himself of the statutory recourse available to him, and “[h]is failure to request a hearing and to pursue his available remedies is thus fatal to his present cause of action.”[8] The Superior Court thus granted the school district’s motion to dismiss the wrongful discharge claims.

Written by Lindsay E. Raber, Esq.

As a teacher, it is imperative that you understand Connecticut’s statutory scheme surrounding hiring, evaluation, and termination processes. Should you have any questions regarding these or other education law matters, you should seek the counsel of an experienced school law practitioner. 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 (located in Fairfield County), by telephone at (203) 221-3100, or by email at


[1] Diaco v. Norwalk Public School District, 2012 Conn. Super. LEXIS 1544 at 6.

[2] Id. at 12.

[3] Tomlinson v. Board of Education, 226 Conn. 704, 730 (1993).

[4] Mendillo v. Board of Education, 246 Conn. 456, 464 (1998); Niestemki v. Ramos, Superior Court, Judicial District of Fairfield, Docket No. CV 06-5001386 (November 20, 2008, Bellis, J.)

[5] Id. at 21, n.8.

[6] Mendillo v. Board of Education, supra. 246 Conn. 468-69.

[7] Diaco v. Norwalk Public School District, supra, 2012 Conn. Super. LEXIS 1544 at 22.

[8] LaCroix v. Board of Education, 199 Conn. 70, 83-84 (1986).

A Quick Guide to Separation Agreements and Severance Packages

Separation Agreements

Today’s report on the lagging unemployment numbers serves as a stark reminder that the state of the economy, though on the upturn, continues to move at a slow pace and that unemployment is a very real problem facing too many people.  Attorneys in our Westport office continue to see a high number of Separation Agreements and severance packages by employees who have been laid off.  What those employees should know is that experienced employment law attorneys, such as those at Maya Murphy, P.C., can review those agreements to negotiate an enhancement or increase of the benefits received.

Because there is no such thing as a standardized severance package, each and every term is crucial and should be carefully scrutinized.  As such, no employee should feel obligated to sign a Separation Agreement and return it to his or her employer without subjecting it to further review and negotiation by employment attorneys with a wide breadth of knowledge in the field.

Severance Packages 

Severance pay refers to a voluntary offer of payment from an employer to an employee who has recently been laid off.  No law requires an employer to offer a terminated employee a severance package.  However, employers offer severance packages, among other reasons, to maintain goodwill with past and future employees, to prevent employees from appropriating trade secrets, customer lists, and other proprietary information, and to ensure that employees refrain from engaging in professional associations with competing companies or businesses, or “non-competition agreements,” a separate issue on which Maya Murphy attorneys are well-versed.

It is crucial to remember that the time in which to respond to and agree to a severance agreement can be very limited, often to no more than one or two weeks, meaning it is in a terminated employee’s best interest to consult with an attorney as soon as possible after receipt of an agreement.

In sum, it is vital to have an attorney experienced in employment law take the lead on reviewing your Separation Agreement, negotiating with your company or business, and vigorously advocating on your behalf.  Should you be confronted with a Separation Agreement, contact an attorney at our Westport office at 203-221-3100.

Enforcing a Non-Compete Agreement in a Medical Partnership

Fairfield County Bariatrics and Surgical Associates, P.C. v. Ehrlich, 2010 Conn. Super. LEXIS 568
Employment Background

Doctors Neil and Craig Floch created Floch Surgical Associates in 1999 in Norwalk, Connecticut to provide medical and surgical services to patients.  They decided to gear their practice toward bariatric surgery and hired Dr. Timothy Ehrlich, a board-certified general surgeon and graduate of Louisiana State University School of Medicine, in 2002.  He was granted surgical privileges at Norwalk Hospital and St. Vincent’s Hospital (in Bridgeport, CT) and operated as the only member of the medical group to perform bariatric surgeries exclusively.  On January 1, 2006, the two Floch doctors and Dr. Ehrlich formed Fairfield Bariatrics and Surgical Associates, P.C. (FCB).

Each doctor became a third shareholder in the professional corporation and signed identical employment agreements that outlined the compensation schedule, termination protocols, and included a non-compete agreement.  The non-compete prohibited each doctor, for two years after termination, from practicing general medicine/surgery within fifteen miles of FCB’s main office in Norwalk and barred performing bariatric procedures at hospitals located in Stamford, Norwalk, Greenwich, Danbury, and Bridgeport.

Doctors Neil and Craig Floch voted to terminate Dr. Ehrlich in July 2009 and notified him of the decision in a letter dated July 30, 1999.  They justified his termination by claiming that he repeatedly “misrepresented the group” and had lost his surgical privileges at Norwalk Hospital due to non-compliance with the hospital’s Trauma Service requirements.

Violating the Restrictive Covenant

Dr. Ehrlich proceeded to form his own limited liability company, Ehrlich Bariatrics LLC, on October 22, 2009 and opened offices in Waterford and Trumbull.  Both of these municipalities are located outside of the prohibited area created by the non-compete agreement but he also continued to perform operations at St. Vincent’s Hospital in Bridgeport, an activity expressly prohibited by the restrictive covenant.

FCB sued Dr. Ehrlich in Connecticut court and requested that the court enforce the provisions outlined in the non-compete agreement dated January 1, 2006.  The court found in favor of FCB, determined that Dr. Ehrlich had violated a valid non-compete agreement, and enforced the provisions of the covenant not to compete.

The court stated that the challenging party (Dr. Ehrlich for this case) bore the burden of proof to demonstrate that the agreement was unenforceable.  He asserted that he had not been properly terminated and that the agreement itself was unreasonable, and therefore unenforceable.  The court rejected both of these arguments and concluded that the agreement was valid and enforceable.

Improper Termination Argument

Dr. Ehrlich advanced the unconvincing argument that he was the victim of improper termination because the shareholders meeting at which the vote was taken to terminate his employment was not properly noticed pursuant to the corporation’s by-laws.  He essentially contended that the “lack of notice renders his termination a nullity”.

The court however disagreed with Dr. Ehrlich because a physician whose termination is being voted on is not entitled to cast a vote.  The lack of voting power for this matter meant that his presence was not required and he was not entitled to notice of the special shareholders meeting where the vote was taken.  The court ultimately concluded that Doctors Neil and Craig Floch had taken the proper and necessary steps in accordance with the corporation’s by-laws to terminate Dr. Ehrlich’s employment with FCB.

Unreasonable Provisions Argument

Next, Dr. Ehrlich unsuccessfully contended that the agreement contained unreasonable provisions and therefore the court was not obligated or permitted to order its enforcement.  Discerning the reasonableness of a non-compete agreement required the court to balance the competing needs of the parties as well as the needs of the public.

Furthermore, the challenging party must show that the provisions are unreasonable in scope.  First, the court established that FCB did in fact have a legitimate business interest that necessitated protection.  The company was entitled to protect potential new patients within a reasonably limited market area.  FCB was only concerned with future patients and did not seek to prevent Dr. Ehrlich from providing follow-up services to current or past patients.

Enforcing the Non-Compete Agreement

Next, the court addressed and cited a variety of case law that showed Connecticut courts’ history of enforcing non-compete agreements when they protect against “something other than mere competition”, including the use of customer lists, impaired of purchased good will, confidential data/trade secrets, use of information concerning potential clients in a limited area, or some other advantage the former employee acquired while working for the plaintiff company.  The court found that Dr. Ehrlich had greatly benefitted from his association with FCB and that his continued actions would negatively affect the reputation and business operations of his former employer.

Lastly, the court took time to address the differences between non-compete agreements for an employer-employee relationship and those for partnerships.  It held that since there was not unequal bargaining power or impaired ability to earn a living, the provisions were not unreasonable in scope.

The court noted that Dr. Ehrlich’s offices in Trumbull and Waterford did not violate the agreement and there were numerous hospitals located outside the prohibited area where he could find employment as a board certified surgeon specializing in bariatrics.  He had actually received encouragement from several doctors to apply for privileges at permissible hospitals, including the Hospital of St. Raphael in New Haven.

In light of Dr. Ehrlich violating a legally binding non-compete agreement that protected a legitimate business interest, the court ordered the enforcement of the restrictive covenant.

The lawyers at Maya Murphy, P.C., are experienced and knowledgeable employment and corporate law practitioners and assist clients in New York, Bridgeport, Darien, Fairfield, Greenwich, New Canaan, Norwalk, Stamford, Westport, and elsewhere in Fairfield County.  If you have any questions relating to your non-compete agreement or would like to discuss any element of your employment agreement, please contact Joseph C. Maya, Esq. by phone at (203) 221-3100 or via e-mail at