Posts tagged with "inappropriate"

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.

Burough Notified of Lawsuit by Officer

Woman Charges Discrimination

NAUGATUCK — A Naugatuck Police officer has notified the borough she intends to file a discrimination lawsuit against the police department, according to a letter filed at Town Hall.

Police Officer Caroline O’Bar intends to sue the Police Department and Police Chief Dennis “Ned” Clisham for “poor and inaccurate performance evaluations,” failing to consider her for a promotion and special assignments, denying her overtime and special schooling, and for slander, according to the letter signed by Tracy L. Norris, an attorney with the New York-based firm Maya & Associates, P.C.

Case Background

O’Bar has worked at the department for several years, but according to Norris’ letter, the alleged discrimination she suffered occurred starting in Oct. 24, 1999. The attorney added that the instances of discrimination violated the officer’s civil rights as well as the Family Medical Leave Act.

The letter also states that O’Bar has filed complaints with the U.S. Department of Labor, the Connecticut Commission on Human Rights, and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Both the human rights commission and equal opportunity commission are investigating O’Bar’s accusations. Clisham could not be reached for comment.

O’Bar, a patrol officer, has said she will not comment on the lawsuit, and referred all questions to her attorney, Joseph C. Maya. Maya, who has handled well-known discrimination lawsuits involving women, would not comment on O’Bar’s lawsuit.

O’Bar is one of fewer than five women among 53 sworn officers at the Naugatuck Police Department.

By Ann Marie Somma
© 2000 Republican-American

Sexual Orientation Can Give Rise to Hostile Work Environment Claim

By now, most employees are aware that they may not be discriminated against in the workplace based upon such considerations as race, gender, national origin, age, or disability.  In a recent decision, the Connecticut Supreme Court added to that list workplace harassment because of sexual orientation.

Patino v. Birken Manufacturing Co., 304 Conn. 679 (2012)

In Patino v. Birken Manufacturing Co., 304 Conn. 679 (2012), the Connecticut Supreme Court held that the section of the Connecticut General Statutes prohibiting employer discrimination against employees because of their sexual orientation additionally creates a cause of action for hostile work environment where employees suffer harassment from their co-workers based upon their sexual orientation.

In Patino, the plaintiff claimed that he was harassed by co-workers because of his sexual orientation and that his employer did nothing to remedy the situation.  Specifically, the plaintiff’s co-workers uttered derogatory multi-lingual slurs against homosexuals while in the plaintiff’s presence.  Initially, the plaintiff did not report the incidents to his employer choosing, instead, to record them in a diary.  Later, the employee complained to a supervisor about the derogatory slurs and an “all hands” meeting was held to address the problem.

Unfortunately, after the meeting, the harassment continued, leading to the transfer of one of the offending employees to another facility.  The remaining workers, however, continued with the derogatory references.  For several years thereafter, the plaintiff wrote numerous letters of complaint to his employer and filed five Complaints with the Connecticut Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities (the state administrative agency charged with initial investigation of claims of employment discrimination).  The last of these Complaints proceeded to trial where the plaintiff won, and a jury awarded him $94,500 in noneconomic damages.

The Employer’s Appeal

On appeal, the company claimed that the statute in question (C.G.S. § 46a-81c) made no reference to “hostile environment” or “hostile workplace” and the plaintiff was therefore not possessed of a viable claim arising from a hostile work environment.  The employer also argued that to be actionable, the offending slurs would have to be spoken directly to the plaintiff notwithstanding the fact that federal courts have ruled that discriminatory statements made outside the employee’s presence can be actionable.  Finally, the employer argued that derogatory slurs spoken in languages other than that of the employee could not form the basis for liability.

The Connecticut Supreme Court was uniformly unimpressed with the employer’s arguments and unanimously affirmed the decision of the trial court.  Thus, the highest court of this state has spoken about the scope of the prohibitions contained in a state statute and the issue appears well-settled: an employee can sue his or her employer for failing to remedy a hostile work environment emanating from derogatory statements concerning sexual orientation.

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 workplace-related claims and assist clients from Greenwich, Stamford, New Canaan, Darien, Norwalk, Westport and Fairfield and resolving such issues.  Should you have any questions about 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.

In Sexual Harassment Claims, Court Will Consider the Totality of the Circumstances

By: Michael D. DeMeola, Esq.
Title VII

Working in a hostile environment can be a very traumatic experience.  Indeed, victims of sexual harassment often experience a pattern of mistreatment over an extended period of time.  This may include physical or verbal abuse, and often includes overtly gender-specific conduct as well as behavior which on its face appears to be gender-neutral (behavior that while abusive, when considered independently, may appear to have nothing to do with one’s gender).

When considering whether a victim of sexual harassment is entitled to judicial redress, it is important to take both types of conduct into account.  In fact, when considering a claim brought under Title VII, a court will consider the totality of the circumstances, including both facially gender-specific behavior as well as behavior that is facially gender-neutral.

Generally speaking, Title VII prohibits, “discrimination against any individual with respect to his or her compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment, because of such individual’s… sex.” 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2(a)(1).  Title VII is not limited to “’economic” or “tangible” discrimination, however.  The phrase “terms, conditions, or privileges of employment” evinces a congressional intent to strike at the entire spectrum of disparate treatment of men and women in employment, which includes requiring people to work in a discriminatorily hostile or abusive environment. 

Harris v. Forklift Systems, Inc., 510 U.S. 17, 21, 114 S. Ct. 367, 126 L. Ed. 2d 295 (1993)

As the Court explained in Harris, Title VII is violated, “When the workplace is permeated with discriminatory intimidation, ridicule, and insult that is sufficiently severe or pervasive to alter the conditions of the victim’s employment and create an abusive working environment,” Id.  Importantly, an employer is presumed to be responsible where the perpetrator of the harassment was the plaintiff’s supervisor. See, e.g., Burlington Industries, Inc. v. Ellerth, 524 U.S. 742, 765, 118 S. Ct. 2257, 141 L. Ed. 2d 633 (1998).

In determining whether an environment is “hostile” or “abusive,” the Court in Harris stated that one must consider all the circumstances surrounding the alleged discrimination. 510 U.S. at 23.  This may include the frequency of the discriminatory conduct; its severity; whether it is physically threatening or humiliating, or a mere offensive utterance; and whether it unreasonably interferes with an employee’s work performance. The effect on the employee’s psychological well-being is also relevant to determining whether the plaintiff actually found the environment abusive.

Notably, while psychological harm, like any other relevant factor, may be taken into account, no single factor is required. Id.  Because the analysis of severity and pervasiveness looks to the totality of the circumstances, the crucial inquiry focuses on the nature of the workplace environment as a whole.  To that end, a plaintiff who herself experiences discriminatory harassment need not be the target of other instances of hostility in order for those incidents to support her claim. Cruz v. Coach Stores, Inc., 202 F.3d 560, 567 (2d Cir. 2000).

Gender Discrimination in a Hostile Work Environment

It is fairly well settled that to prevail on a claim of hostile work environment based on gender discrimination, the plaintiff must establish that the abuse was indeed based on his or her gender. See, e.g., Raniola v. Bratton, 243 F.3d 610, 621 (2d Cir. 2001).  However, facially neutral incidents may be included among the “totality of the circumstances” that courts consider. Alfano v. Costello, 294 F.3d 365, 378 (2d Cir. 2002).  In determining whether facially sex-neutral incidents were part of a pattern of discrimination on the basis of gender the Court may consider, for example, whether the same individual engaged in multiple acts of harassment, though some may have been overtly sexual and some not. Id.  

Gender Hostility Cases

In Raniola, supra, the Court concluded that, given proof of instances of overt gender hostility by the supervisor of the female plaintiff, a rational juror could have permissibly inferred that his entire alleged pattern of harassment against her was motivated by her gender, even though some of the harassment was not facially sex-based. Thus, the relevant circumstances in Raniola included not only offensive sex-based remarks, but also one facially gender-neutral threat of physical harm by the supervisor who had made the remarks.

In Kaytor v. Electric Boat Corporation, 609 F. 3d 537 (2d Cir 2010), the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit adhered to this principle.  In that case, the plaintiff, an administrative assistant in the defendant’s engineering department, brought suit under Title VII alleging that the department manager sexually harassed her.  The plaintiff alleged that in addition to constantly staring at her and making suggestive advances, the manager also threatened her with physical harm.  For example, the manager allegedly told the plaintiff he wished she was dead, saying, “I’d like to see you in your coffin.”

Additionally, on six occasions, the manager allegedly told the plaintiff he wanted to choke her.  In overturning the trial Court’s decision which effectively dismissed the plaintiff’s case, the Appellate Court explained, “…the court should not have excluded from consideration [the plaintiff’s] testimony as to [the manager’s] stated desires to choke her, to see her in a coffin, and to kill her.”  According to the court, one could permissibly infer that the manager’s harsh treatment of the plaintiff was the result of his spurned advances and that the facially gender-neutral threats he directed at the plaintiff were, in fact, because of her sex.

Bridgeport DJ Says Spit Cost Her Her Job

BRIDGEPORT –

As Prozac Girl on the controversial, syndicated “Star & Buc Wild Morning Show,” Keysha Whitaker often had to deal with sophomoric abuse thrown at her. But when it came to being spit at, Whitaker drew the line. That cost Whitaker her job, she claims.

As a result, Whitaker, who according to court papers lives on Avalon Drive in Milford, filed a multimillion-dollar lawsuit claiming intentional infliction of emotional distress, assault, defamation, and violation of the Americans with Disability Act. Her on-air character, Prozac Girl, was based on her real-life bout with depression.

U.S. District Judge Janet C. Hall rejected Clear Channel Broadcasting’s request to dismiss the case against the company; Troi Torain, better known as hip-hop shock jock DJ Star; and Miguel Candelaria, the show’s producer. The judge listened to the two sides argue their cases for about an hour before ruling from the bench. Hall dismissed the assault charge after finding the suit claims only an oral threat was made and that Star did not actually attempt to spit on her.

However, Hall said Bryan Carmody, Whitaker’s lawyer, could resurrect that claim if he can show Torain did attempt to spit on his client.

Case Background

The syndicated show began broadcasting on Clear Channel’s WPPH-FM 104.1 in Hartford in April 2004. More recently, it called WWPR-FM Power 105.1 in New York home. But Torain’s actions led to Clear Channel pulling the show from the air and dropping its $4 million Star from the payroll.

On that day, Torain made on- the-air comments about the 4-year-old daughter of DJ Envy, a rival morning host on Hot 97, which once broadcast Torain’s show. DJ Envy’s real name is Rashawn Casey.

Torain maintained his comments were in response to earlier ones made against his mother by Casey.

On May 13, 2006, Torain was arrested on charges of endangering the welfare of a child as a result of his comments. The charge carries a maximum 2-year sentence. He was released on $2,000 bond.

Whitaker was just one of a number of characters on the show. Others included Buc Wild, Torain’s real-life half-brother; “White Trash” Helene, from Hamden; and “Chris the Queer,” the show’s gay newsman.

In February 2004, Clear Channel hired Whitaker to play the role of Prozac Girl at a salary of $60,000 a year, the suit claims. Additionally, she was to be paid a $20,000 lump sum each time the show was syndicated to a new locale, according to the suit.

The show began airing on 104.1 WPHH in Hartford in April 2004.

The Incident

During the May 24, 2004, broadcast, Torain spat on Candelaria and said, “all of you in here are going to get anointed with my spit,” the suit alleges.

Following the show, the suit claims, Whitaker told Candelaria she would resign if Torain insisted upon “anointing her with his saliva.”

Three days later, the suit claims, Candelaria shot a “phlegm-laden” launch at a character named “Crossover Negro Reese,” a newsman. Torain then threatened to spit on Whitaker, who again objected, the suit charges.

After the show, the suit says, Candelaria demanded a letter of resignation from Whitaker, stripped her of her office keys and walked her out of the building.

The suit further claims Torain called Whitaker after she left and told her she was fired because she “is sick,” “disabled” and has depression.

Since then, Carmody said, his client has suffered severely.

“She’s not working,” he said.

The parties in the suit could not be reached for comment Wednesday evening.

Connecticut Post
By: Michael P. Mayko

Naugatuck Cop Claims Discrimination

NAUGATUCK —

A Naugatuck police officer has notified the borough she intends to file a discrimination lawsuit against the police department, according to a letter filed at Town hall.

Police Officer Caroline O’Bar intends to sue the department and Police Chief Dennis “Ned” Clisham for “poor and inaccurate performance evaluations,” failing to consider her for promotion and special assignments, denying her overtime and special schooling, and slandering her, according to the letter. O’Bar had worked for the department for several years, but according to the letter, the alleged discrimination she suffered started to occur in Oct. 24, 1999.

Clisham could not be reached for comment.

By Ann Marie Somma
©2000 Republican-American

Midtown Hotel Bosses Involved in Sexual Harassment Case

Midtown Hotel Bosses Involved in Sexual Harassment Case

Two immigrant housekeepers at a midtown hotel endured months of crude sexual harassment from male supervisors, and were fired for complaining about the mistreatment, state investigators charged. One of their bosses allegedly told them to bow their heads when addressing him.

The State Division of Human Rights said its probe found probable cause to believe the harassment complaints filed by the women against Club Quarters Hotel and four of the inn’s management employees.

The housekeepers, Marina Abdullajeva and Kathy Salgado, both of Brooklyn, said their bosses propositioned them, made lewd comments, groped their breasts and other parts of their bodies, and pressured them for dates.

“It was almost like slavery,” said their lawyer Joseph Maya. “They either had to perform sexual favors and sleep with them, or they’d lose their jobs.” Maya said Abdullajeva, 30, who is from Latvia, and Salgado, 31, an Ecuadorean, refused to comply with the demands. They were fired in February after working for the hotel for a little more than a year. Maya said each woman is seeking $2 million in compensation and punitive damages.

The hotel’s attorney, Jon Horowitz, denied the charges. He said the hotel, located at 40 West 45th Street, has a policy barring sexual harassment that it strictly enforces. The women, he said, were fired for cause.

The women said they were instructed by Hassan Kaseb, to bow their heads because he “comes from Iran, and this is the way they treat women in Iran.”

Others accused of harassment were hotel manager Frank Nicholas, engineering manager Talat Pervez, and supervisor Elliot Manning.

By SALVATORE ARENA
Daily News Staff Writer

Division to Petitioner: “No Good Reason” for Sentence Reduction

Superior Court of Connecticut: Sentencing Review Division (Division)

In a criminal law matter involving a sentence reduction, the Sentencing Review Division (Division) of the Superior Court of Connecticut declined to reduce the sentence of a petitioner who claimed it was inappropriate and disproportionate.

This case arose from an incident that occurred on September 23, 1999. The petitioner was driving his car when he began racing a second vehicle at speeds in excess of 100mph. The second vehicle crashed into a traveling motorcycle, resulting in the death of both vehicles’ passengers. In addition, the motorcyclist required a leg amputation. Meanwhile, the petitioner continued driving until he experienced a flat tire, at which point he walked back to the scene of the accident and was arrested.

Counts of Conviction

The petitioner was charged and convicted, following a jury trial, of the following counts:

  1. Third-degree reckless assault: mandatory one year in jail.
  2. Misconduct with a motor vehicle (two counts): maximum of five years of incarceration.
  3. Reckless driving: maximum one year in jail for subsequent offenders.
  4. Illegal racing: maximum one year in jail.

The petitioner was sentenced to twelve years of incarceration. Following an unsuccessful appeal, he pursued a reduced sentence of eight years, arguing that it was the average sentence for those convicted of similar offenses. He claimed that his sentence, “being higher than the average, is therefore ‘inappropriate’ or ‘disproportionate.” The State vehemently opposed, pointing to the petitioner’s: history of speeding violations, including one between the time of this offense and his sentencing; denial of responsibility; failure to show genuine remorse; history of behavioral problems; and the suffering inflicted on the families of the victims.

Connecticut Practice Book § 43-28

Under Connecticut Practice Book § 43-28, one will find the statutory limitations of the Division’s authority to modify criminal sentences to those that are inappropriate or disproportionate. When making this determination, the Division will consider: “the nature of the offense, the character of the offender, the protection of the public interest, the deterrent, rehabilitative, isolative, and denunciatory purposes for which the sentence was intended.” In this case, the Division considered these factors and affirmed the sentence, noting that there was “no good reason to reduce the sentence imposed by the trial court.”

Written by Lindsay E. Raber, Esq.

Should you have any questions regarding criminal defense, please do not hesitate to contact Attorney Joseph C. Maya in the firm’s Westport office in Fairfield County at 203-221-3100 or at JMaya@Mayalaw.com.

“The Fact That You Were An Attorney, Sir, Makes the Crime Worse,” Sentence Review Division Denies Modification Request

Superior Court of Connecticut: Sentence Review Division

In a criminal law matter, the Sentence Review Division (Division) of the Superior Court of Connecticut declined to modify a defendant’s sentence because it was neither inappropriate nor disproportionate.

In this case, the petitioner, an attorney, was hired by the complainants to provide services related to the sale of their home. The complainants gave him nearly $111,000 to pay off their mortgage, but the money was never tendered to the bank. The petitioner was charged with larceny in the first degree, a violation of General Statutes § 53a-122 with a maximum punishment of twenty years incarceration. He entered into a plea agreement, and the court sentenced him to twelve years incarceration, execution suspended after four years, with five years of probation and special conditions, including restitution.

Division Sentence Review

The petitioner sought a sentence reduction in light of his practice as an attorney aiding minorities, arguing that the sentence he received as inappropriate and disproportionate. When the Division reviews a sentence, it is without authority to modify unless the sentence is “inappropriate or disproportionate” when considering such factors as the nature of the offense and the character of the offender. In this case, the Division found that the trial court properly considered mitigating aspects of the petitioner’s background. It also noted, however, that he previously misappropriated a quarter of a million dollars of funds entrusted to him from a client. Citing the trial court:

The fact that you were an attorney, sir, makes the crime worse, not simply because you were a lawyer who committed a crime, but you committed a crime out of the breach of the very trust that was placed in you by your clients, and that is an aggravating factor.

The Division held that modification was not warranted in this case where “an attorney embezzled substantial funds from clients and the prior criminal history of the petitioner… reflects the same type of criminal behavior.” It additionally noted that the petitioner never paid restitution to the victims between the time he entered into the plea agreement and sentencing. Therefore, the sentence was affirmed.

Written by Lindsay E. Raber, Esq.

Should you have any questions regarding criminal defense, please do not hesitate to contact Attorney Joseph C. Maya in the firm’s Westport office in Fairfield County at 203-221-3100 or at JMaya@Mayalaw.com.