Posts tagged with "westport attorney"

Hurdles Employees Must Jump in Filing a Claim for Unlawful Discrimination

Here in Connecticut and across the nation, employees from all walks of life routinely face unlawful discriminatory practices and treatment in the workplace. Depending on the nature of the claim, he or she may file civil lawsuits under Title VII (which prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, and national origin) or the Connecticut Fair Employment Practices Act (CFEPA).

However, employees need to keep in mind that before they seek recourse with the courts, they must first exhaust all of their administrative remedies. “The exhaustion requirement exists to afford the administrative agency the opportunity to investigate, mediate, and take remedial action.”[1] Failure to do so will result in dismissal of the case (see, for example, this previously-discussed case).

Furthermore, employees must pay attention to statutory time restrictions for filing administrative charges under Title VII and CFEPA:

To sustain a claim for unlawful discrimination under Title VII in a deferral state such as Connecticut, a plaintiff must file administrative charges with the EEOC [Equal Employment Opportunities Commission] within 300 days of the alleged discriminatory acts.[2] … CFEPA requires that a complainant file the administrative charge with the CCHRO [Connecticut Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities] within 180 days of the alleged discriminatory act.[3]

Courts are particularly cognizant of these requirements and endorse “strict adherence… [as] the best guarantee of the evenhanded administration of the law.”[4] As a result, the time bar will begin running for each individual adverse employment action against the employee on the date it occurred. Failure to timely file a claim may prevent it from being reviewed by the EEOC or CCHRO.

However, employees often endure discriminatory practices over a prolonged period of time, so even if alleged conduct falls outside of the charging period, it may be reviewable. An important exception to strict adherence is the continuing violation exception, which involves incidents occurring both within and outside the time bar. A continuing violation occurs “where there is proof of specific ongoing discriminatory policies or practices, or where specific and related instances of discrimination are permitted by the employer to continue unremedied for so long as to amount to a discriminatory policy or practice.”[5]

As an employee, it is imperative that you understand Connecticut’s statutory scheme surrounding hiring, evaluation, and termination processes, as well as the requirements for filing a lawsuit under State and federal anti-discrimination law. The attorneys at Maya Murphy, P.C., assist clients in Bridgeport, Darien, Fairfield, Greenwich, New Canaan, Norwalk, Stamford, and Westport. If you have any questions regarding any employment law matter, please do not hesitate to contact Attorney Joseph C. Maya. 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] Stewart v. United States Immigration and Naturalization Service, 762 F.2d 193, 198 (2d. Cir. 1985).

[2] Flaherty v. Metromail Corp., 235 F.3d 133, 136 n.1 (2d Cir. 2000).

[3] Connecticut General Statutes § 46a-82e.

[4] Mohasco Corp. v. Silver, 447 U.S. 807, 826 (1980).

[5] Cornwell v. Robinson, 23 F.3d 694, 704 (2d Cir. 1994).

Did Basketball Powerhouse Force Coach to Resign Due to Her Disability?

Most people who have lived for some period of time here in Connecticut are amply familiar with the Lady Huskies and Lady Vols fierce decade-long rivalry. Before regular season matches discontinued five years ago, these games were the highlight of the season. Thus, fans have come to form a love-hate relationship with Pat Summitt, Head Coach of the Lady Vols who has the most wins of any (both male and female) NCAA basketball coach. It came as a shock to hear on April 18, 2012, after thirty-eight years of coaching, Summitt would be retiring from her post after being diagnosed with early-onset dementia-Alzheimer’s disease just before the start of the 2011-2012 season.[1] “I’ve loved being the head coach at Tennessee for 38 years, but I recognize that the time has come to move into the future and to step into a new role,” explained Summitt.[2]

As it turns out, the decision may not have been entirely that of Summitt.

In a recently released affidavit,[3] Summitt revealed that on March 14, 2012, she met with the University of Tennessee (UT) Athletics Director David Hart, who informed her that she would no longer be the coaching the Lady Vols. Summitt further explained:

This was very surprising to me and very hurtful as that was a decision I would have liked to have made on my own at the end of the season after consulting with my family, doctors, colleagues, and friends and not be told this by Mr. Hart. I felt this was wrong.[4]

UT spokeswoman Margie Nichols denied allegations that Summitt was forced out of her position. “It’s absolutely not true… It was Pat’s idea to become the head coach emeritus. I think she made that really clear at her press conference earlier this year.”[5] Regardless, this leaves many asking: was Summitt forced to resign because of her disability?

Under Connecticut law, employees enjoy a very comprehensive statutory scheme (found here) prohibiting discriminatory practices in the workplace. Unless the employer and its agents (such as administration or management) have a “bona fide occupational qualification or need,” it is a violation of the General Statutes:

To refuse to hire or employ or to bar or to discharge from employment any individual or to discriminate against such individual in compensation or in terms, conditions or privileges of employment because of the individual’s race, color, religious creed, age, sex, marital status, national origin, ancestry, present or past history of mental disability, mental retardation, learning disability or physical disability, including, but not limited to, blindness.[6]

In addition, employees enjoy federal protection of their rights through such legislation as the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Rehabilitation Act, and the Family Medical Leave Act, to name just a few.

Discrimination on the basis of disability or another protected class is unfortunately a common occurrence in the workplace, but its prevalence in no way makes it lawful. If you are a teacher, coach, or any employee and you find yourself being the target of adverse employment action on any of the above bases, it is imperative that you consult an experienced and knowledgeable school or employment law practitioner. Should you have any questions regarding employment discrimination or other education law or employment law matters, 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] “Pat Summitt’s Early-Onset Dementia: Lady Vols Coach Resigns Less Than A Year After Diagnosis.” Published April 18, 2012. Accessed October 5, 2012:

[2] Id.

[3] “Affidavit of Coach Pat Head Summitt.” Accessed October 5, 2012:

[4] Id.

[5] “Pat Summitt Affidavit: Ex-Tennessee Coach Initially Felt Forced Out Of Job Over Early-Onset Dementia,” by Steve Megargee. Published October 3, 2012. Accessed October 5, 2012:

[6] Connecticut General Statutes § 46a-60(a). Accessed October 5, 2012:

Cyberbullying and Free Speech: Where Should Schools Draw the Line?

As the school year gets into full swing, education administrators continue to grapple with the ongoing problem of peer to peer bullying.  In addition to issues relating to the extent to which schools must prevent, intervene, and address on-campus bullying come free speech challenges and issues. At least one author has written about how Connecticut’s anti-bullying law would fare in the face of free speech issues, noting that “[t]he new law puts school officials in the position of having to pass judgment on off-campus speech with little legal precedent to guide them . . . If they clamp down on online comments, they risk First Amendment challenges.  If they’re too lenient, they could be deemed responsible if cyberbullying leads to tragedy.”[1]

What worries some officials and lawmakers is the prospect of the regulation of speech that doesn’t take place on school grounds.  Legal Director of the ACLU of Connecticut Sandra Staub stated during testimony in March of this year that “simply plugging the phrase ‘cyberbullying’ into the current statute on bullying policies will encourage and allow schools to regulate children’s speech and conduct while they are in their own homes.”[2] Essentially, Staub’s argument sounds in the notion that what children do in their own homes is under the control of their parents, who, pursuant to the United States Supreme Court, have a due process right to raise their children in the manner they see fit.  Permitting schools to regulate such speech turns schools into internet police.  Instead, Staub suggests that it is the school’s responsibility to provide an education that instills in students the means by which to deal with conflicts in an appropriate manner.

On the other side of the debate is the pervasiveness of cyberbullying and its devastating effects on children and young adults.  The nation woke up to the very real effects of bullying when Phoebe Prince, of Massachusetts, committed suicide in 2010 after her peers tormented her to the point at which she could not take it anymore.  Sadly, Prince’s story is not unique.  According to Connecticut’s General Assembly Commission on Children, “25 percent of Connecticut high school students – and 35 percent of the state’s 9th graders – report having been bullied or harassed on school property in the previous year.”[3] Furthermore, the report states that “[m]ore than 900,000 U.S. high school students reported being cyberbullied in one year.”[4] According to the U.S. Department of Justice, “Bullying may be the most underreported safety problem in American schools.”[5]

While cyberbullying remains prevalent in schools, school administrators will continue to police their students while attempting to avoid infringing free speech.  The line, however, is a thin and tricky one.

If you have any questions about bullying or cyberbullying, or education law issues in general, do not hesitate to contact Joseph C. Maya, Esq. in our Westport office, at 203-221-3100, or at

[1] Jacqueline Rabe, New Conn. ‘Cyberbullying’ Law Prompts Free Speech Debate, Law Technology News (Sept. 7, 2011).

[2] Sandra Staub, Written Testimony Opposing Raised Bill No. 1138 An Act Concerning the Strengthening of School Bullying Laws,

[3] Conn. Gen. Assembly Commission on Children, Anti-Bullying Bill Becomes Law, available at (July 21, 2011).

[4] Id.


Maya Murphy, P.C. ranked in 2022 “Best Law Firms” and Managing Partner Joseph Maya named to the 2022 Best Lawyers®

August 12, 2021 — U.S. News & World Report and Best Lawyers®, for the eleventh consecutive year, announce the “Best Law Firms” rankings.

Maya Murphy, P.C. has been ranked in the 2022 U.S. News – Best Lawyers® “Best Law Firms” list.

In addition, the firm has been named “Law Firm of the Year” in:

  • Firms included in the 2022 “Best Law Firms” list are recognized for professional excellence with persistently impressive ratings from clients and peers. Achieving a tiered ranking signals a unique combination of quality law practice and breadth of legal expertise.
  • The 2022 Edition of “Best Law Firms” includes rankings in 75 national practice areas and 127 metropolitan – based practice areas. Additionally, one “Law Firm of the Year” was named in each nationally-ranked practice area.
  • Ranked firms, presented in tiers, are listed on a national and/ or metropolitan scale. Receiving a tier designation reflects the high level of respect a firm has earned among other leading lawyers and clients in the same communities and the same practice areas for their abilities, their professionalism and their integrity.

In addition to Maya Murphy, P.C. being ranked in 2022 “Best Law Firms”, Managing Partner Joseph C. Maya has been named to the 2022 Best Lawyers® list and has been included in the 2022 Edition of The Best Lawyers in America. Since it was first published in 1983, Best Lawyers has become universally regarded as the definitive guide to legal excellence.

Best Lawyers has published their list for over three decades, earning the respect of the profession, the media, and the public as the most reliable, unbiased source of legal referrals. Its first international list was published in 2006 and since then has grown to provide lists in over 75 countries.

“Best Lawyers was founded in 1981 with the purpose of highlighting the extraordinary accomplishments of those in the legal profession. After three decades, we are proud to continue to serve as the most reliable, unbiased source of legal referrals worldwide,” says CEO Phillip Greer.

Lawyers on The Best Lawyers in America list are divided by geographic region and practice areas. They are reviewed by their peers on the basis of professional expertise, and undergo an authentication process to make sure they are in current practice and in good standing.

Bullying Remains at Forefront of Education Law

Bullying Remains at Forefront of Education Law as One State Criminalizes Student-on-Teacher Bullying…

In an interesting article , author John Ross reported on a newly-enacted North Carolina law that criminalizes student-on-teacher cyberbullying, a less discussed but still pervasive bullying issue.  Students who use computers with the “intent to intimidate or torment” school employees can be subjected to a Class 2 misdemeanor under North Carolina’s new measure.  The law is the first in the nation to directly address student-on-teacher bullying.

Despite North Carolina being the first to criminalize such behavior, other states, including Connecticut, have addressed student-on-teacher bullying cases.  In a 2008 case, the Second Circuit considered an appeal in which the plaintiff, a student in Burlington, Connecticut, claimed that school administrators violated her First Amendment rights by preventing her from running for senior class secretary because of off-campus speech she engaged in in which she called school administrators derogatory names after they cancelled a school event that plaintiff was in charge of organizing.[1]

Alleging a violation of her First Amendment rights, plaintiff moved for a preliminary injunction to void the election for Senior Class Secretary and order the school to hold a new election.  Both the district court and the appellate court denied the motion for a preliminary injunction, thereby upholding the school district’s punishment relating to plaintiff’s blog posts.[2]

The Second Circuit reconciled the U.S. Supreme Court’s seminal holding in Tinker v. Des Moines, 393 U.S. 503 (1969) (students do not “shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate) with the competing notion that “the constitutional rights of students in public school ‘are not automatically coextensive with the rights of adults in other settings.’”[3] Ultimately, the Second Circuit, in an opinion in which now-U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor concurred, based its argument on the holding of an earlier decision, which held that “a student may be disciplined for expressive conduct, even conduct occurring off school grounds, when this conduct ‘would foreseeably create a risk of substantial disruption within the school environment,’ at least when it was similarly foreseeable that that the off-campus expression might also reach campus.”[4]

Concluding that it was “reasonably foreseeable that [plaintiff’s] posting would reach school property,”[5] the Second Circuit held that plaintiff failed to show that her First Amendment rights were violated when she was disqualified for running for a student government position.  The Court did note that its decision was narrow, leaving open the possibility that a more severe punishment by the school may have given rise to a constitutional violation.[6] That issue remains to come before the Second Circuit.

The attorneys at Maya Murphy, P.C. are experienced in education matters.  If you have any questions relating to education, bullying, or cyberbullying issues, do not hesitate to contact Joseph C. Maya, Esq. in our Westport, Fairfield County office, at either 203-221-3100 or

[1] Doninger v. Niehoff, 527 F.3d 41 (2d Cir. 2008).

[2] Id.

[3] Bethel Sch. Dist. No. 403 v. Fraser, 478 U.S. 675, 682 (1986).

[4] Doninger, 527 F.3d at 48, quoting Wisniewski v. Bd. Of Educ., 49 F.3d 34, 40 (2d Cir. 2007).

[5] Id. at 50.

[6] Id. at 53.

What’s In a Separation Agreement?

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

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

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

  • Consideration:  Make sure all of the severance benefits are correct and clearly stated.  This includes severance pay, COBRA coverage, etc.  Do not leave anything to inference or implication.
  • Confirmation that No Claims Exist/Covenant Not to Sue: Notwithstanding the comprehensive release language, some separation agreements will also require the employee to state that he/she is not aware of any factual basis to support any charge or complaint and that the employee will forego suit, even if such a claim exists.
  • Non-disparagement: Both sides often agree that neither will say anything to disparage the other.  Sometimes (particularly in the financial industry), a separation agreement will contain a “carve out” for employer reporting to FINRA or the SEC.  In such a case, it is important to have the agreement state that as of the employee’s separation date, the employer was not aware of any reportable event or information that would warrant comment or notation on a Form U-5.
  • Governing Law:  Employment law does not travel well across state lines.  For example, California law is much different than Connecticut’s.  Large companies will sometimes have their separation agreements governed by the law of the state where it has its headquarters, irrespective of the actual place of work of the departing employee.
  • Acknowledgement of Non-Revocation: An employee has seven days within which to revoke acceptance of a separation agreement.  Some companies adopt a “belt and suspenders” approach and require the employee to acknowledge in writing a negative—that they have not revoked such acceptance.

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


Keywords: job prospects, non-competes, enforcement, franchise, injunctive relief, obligations, prohibitions, valid, attempted solicitation, solicitation, refuse to enforce, reasonably necessary, former employer, previous employer, job responsibilities, binding, classified information, commercial operations, competing, compete, directly, employer’s interest, indirectly, protect, reasonable, restricting disclosures, similar products, burden of proof, duress, direct competitor, disclosure of trade secrets, employment contract, enforceability, geographic limitations, headquarters, improper competition, injunction, management responsibilities, non-compete covenant, covenant not to compete, radius, sales representative, time limitations, new employment, unreasonable provisions, attorney, attorneys, employment attorneys, bonus, bonuses, companies, company, Connecticut, customary practices, Darien, departing employees, directors, employee, employer, employment law, employment at-will, at-will, legal counsel, executives, New York, Fairfield, Fairfield County, Norwalk, Westport, Weston, Easton, Bridgeport, Stamford, Stratford, severance package, Greenwich, harassment, discrimination, hiring, human resources, job offers, lawyer, lawyers, leaving company, leverage, Maya Murphy, negotiated, negotiating severance packages, negotiation, New Canaan, non-compete, non compete,  non-competition, non-disparagement, non-solicitation, offer, offer agreement, offer letter, P.C., payroll, position, represent, representation, salary, salaries,  senior management, manager, separation agreement, severance agreements, severance letters, severance package, termination, vacation, vesting, vesting of stock options, law firm, public interest, monopoly, start own business, voluntary, voluntarily left, mediation, burdensome, excessive, geographical, occupation, practice, territorial, violation, restrictive, proprietary knowledge, scope, narrow, broad, anti-compete, future clients, adequate consideration, competing businesses, confidentiality agreement,  conflict of interest, defense, fraud, consideration, oral representations, written approval, commercial, compensation, clients, contracts, duration, area, restricted area, future employment, misrepresentations, competing services, irreparable harm, Westport attorney, Fairfield attorney,

Connecticut Courts Allow Limited Scope Representation for Family Law Matters

Connecticut’s court system is beginning a pilot program that will allow people involved in family law cases to hire attorneys on a limited basis. The program begins Jan. 6 and is designed to help people who can’t afford a lawyer to hire one for certain proceedings in their cases. This program is intended to combat the number of pro se litigants in family matters in Connecticut.

Judicial Branch officials say more people are having problems affording lawyers, and many are representing themselves in civil and family cases. New legal forms will allow attorneys to file for limited appearances only in cases and to fully withdraw from cases once their work is done.

Limited scope representation allows for an individual to hire an attorney to represent them with part, but not all, of their legal matter. The typical retainer agreement will be limited to one specific portion of a case, for instance, a custody hearing, and then the representation will conclude.

There is a limited appearance form, JD-CL-121, that is filed by an attorney to specify the event they are providing the client representation for. Once that event is complete, the attorney must file another appearance form signaling completion of their representation and notifying all parties that the attorney is withdrawing from further representation of the individual.

This flexibility allows pro se litigants to hire attorneys for complex points of their case and to go it alone on others. This added flexibility is mainly a cost-saving tool, but the Connecticut Judicial Branch also hopes it will aid efficiency in the family law courts.

If you currently represent yourself in a divorce action and are interested in securing legal services for a particular aspect of your case you can take advantage of this new opportunity rather than hiring an attorney for all court appearances and all negotiations.

More information is available on the Judicial Branch website at and at courthouses.

Informational PDF files can be found here:

Continue Reading

The Best Employment Lawyers in Connecticut and New York

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

Laws Protect Employees from Sexual Harassment in the Workplace
These laws also protect employees from sexual harassment , a hostile work environment, and from being touched in an offensive manner in the workplace by supervisors, coworkers, or even clients. Employees have a right to stop discriminatory conduct in the workplace. If an employee tries to stop that conduct or notifies a supervisor that discriminatory conduct has occurred, that employee also has protection, under state and national laws, from retaliation by the supervisor or employer. In fact, any person who complains to his or her superior or employer has protection from the law against retaliation by his or her employer. If you feel you might be a victim of racial, gender, or sexual discrimination on the job, you should contact Joseph C. Maya, Esq. at or by dialing him at (203) 221-3100 or (212) 682-5700. Let our experience guide you and protect your legal rights at work.
Serving Stamford, Greenwich, Norwalk and surrounding communities including Darien, New Canaan, Westport, Wilton & Weston; the greater Bridgeport area including Fairfield, Stratford, Monroe & Redding; the greater Danbury area including Ridgefield, Newtown & Bethel; and the communities surrounding Milford and New Haven. We also serve all of Westchester and New York Counties.

Continue Reading

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

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

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

The plaintiff argued that the word “bitch” is such an intensely degrading sexual epithet that its use should automatically result in a finding that it implies hostility toward women.  The court readily acknowledged that the use of that word in a variety of contexts reflects that hostility.  The court rejected, however, a rule that would automatically command from its use an inference of gender-based hostility.  As in so many employment discrimination cases, the finding of a hostile work environment depends upon the totality of the circumstances.  In this case, when grouped with other acts of disparate treatment, constant use of the word “bitch” could reasonably be found to contribute to a subjectively and objectively hostile work environment.

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

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


Keywords: bitch, degrading, degrading epithets, gender-based hostility, interference, severe, pervasive, totality of the circumstances, work environment, discrimination, harassment, sexual discrimination, sexual harassment, gender, gender discrimination, gender inequality, gender equality, equal pay, equal opportunity, civil rights, sexual orientation, work discrimination, workplace discrimination, harassment in the workplace, harassment at work, workplace harassment, discrimination in the workplace, discrimination law, age discrimination, sex discrimination, touching, inappropriate, women discrimination, women, pregnancy, racial discrimination, abuse, sexual harassment attorney, employment, employment discrimination, hiring discrimination, job discrimination, disability discrimination, wrongful termination, employment, work, workplace, employer, employee, supervisor, hostile work environment, retaliation, EEOC, CCHRO, CHRO, Civil Rights Act, quid pro quo harassment, Title VII, bullying, bullying workplace, gender workplace, harassment policy, workers rights, attorneys at law, employee rights, employee lawyer, discrimination lawyer, employment lawyer, employment law, New York law, Connecticut law, employment attorney, employment law attorney, employment law lawyer, discrimination attorney, harassment attorney, labor attorney, labor lawyers, lawyer, lawyers, attorney, attorneys, civil rights attorney, find a lawyer, new york attorney, new york lawyer, lawyers in nyc, lawyers in Connecticut, employment labor, unemployment, lawyers in ct, ct lawyers, free consultation, find an attorney, legal attorney, legal advice, lawyers Connecticut, attorneys Connecticut, Connecticut law, lawyers Fairfield, lawyers Westport, new haven attorney, Bridgeport attorney, Hartford attorney, Stamford attorney, employment NY, law office, Connecticut law office, New Canaan, New Haven, Bridgeport, Stamford, Darien, Greenwich, Westport, Westport attorney, Fairfield attorney, Weston, Fairfield, Maya Murphy,

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

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

The petitioner in the case was a female high school student employed by Young Legends, LLC in a franchise sandwich shop in the City of Norwich.  In January 2007 the teenage employee filed a complaint with the State Division of Human Rights alleging that Dale Blackwood, her supervisor and the owner of Young Legends, subjected her to sexual harassment during her employment.  She testified about Blackwood’s “touchy feely” interactions with female employees and offensive sexual remarks.[2]  In particular Blackwood put constant pressure on the petitioner to visit him alone in his apartment and when she eventually did so, he forced her to engage in sexual intercourse.  When Blackwood asked her to return to his apartment, she refused.  In a series of angry, insulting text messages he told her that her refusal meant she was quitting her job.

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

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


The lawyers at Maya Murphy, P.C., are experienced and knowledgeable employment law practitioners and assist clients in New York, Bridgeport, Darien, Fairfield, Greenwich, New Canaan, Norwalk, Stamford, Westport, and elsewhere in Fairfield County. Should you have any questions about a sexual harassment claim or workplace discrimination or any other employment law matter, please do not hesitate to contact Attorney Joseph C. Maya, Esq. He may be reached at Maya Murphy, P.C., 266 Post Road East, Westport, Connecticut, by telephone at (203) 221-3100, or by email at

[1] New York State Div. of Human Rights v. Young Legends, LLC, 90 A.D.3d 1265, 1269-70 (2011)

[2] Id. at 1266.

[3] Id.

[4] Id. at 1270.