Posts tagged with "Westport Connecticut"

Former Student Brings Title IX Suit Against Wesleyan University

In a case that has garnered national attention, a former Wesleyan University student filed a federal lawsuit in Connecticut’s district court against Wesleyan, alleging that the university failed to protect her from dangers of the Beta Theta Pi fraternity.  The female says she was raped at the fraternity two years ago at a party.

The complaint charged Wesleyan with violating Title IX and alleged that the university violated the federal law by failing “to supervise, discipline, warn or take other corrective action” against the Mu Epsilon chapter of the Beta fraternity.  The complaint further stated that the university “did nothing to prevent, and was deliberately indifferent to, the harm caused to Jane Doe by the rape and outrageous sexual harassment and intimidation that followed her everywhere on campus.”  Finally, the complaint alleged that the school “acted with deliberate indifference towards the rights of Jane Doe and other female students to a safe and secure education environment thus materially impairing Jane Doe’s ability to pursue her education at Wesleyan in violation of the requirements of Title IX.”[1]

Her complaint seeks punitive damages for negligence, Title IX violations, and premises liability.

Title IX is the federal gender-equality law, which states in part that “no person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.”

The legislation covers all educational and non-sport activities, such as school clubs and bands.  As such, the impact of the legislation is far-reaching and can touch many different aspects of one’s life.  If you feel that you or a loved one is being discriminated against on the basis of gender or sex, you should consult with an attorney experienced in the complicated field of employment law.  Our attorneys represent employees throughout Fairfield County, and are ready to advocate on your behalf.  Please contact Joseph C. Maya, Esq., at 203-221-3100, or at JMaya@mayalaw.com, to schedule a consultation.


[1] http://articles.courant.com/2012-10-05/news/hc-wesleyan-rape-lawsuit-1006-20121005_1_wesleyan-university-student-wesleyan-community-lawsuit.

The Application of Governmental Immunity to School Bullying Suits

In Connecticut, the doctrine of “governmental immunity” may bar a plaintiff bullying victim from succeeding in a claim against a school district.  The general concept of governmental immunity stems from the value judgment that government officers and employees should have discretion to carry out their duties without the perpetual fear or threat of a lawsuit for any injury caused in the administration of their duties.  However, the concept of governmental immunity applies only where municipal officers are engaged in discretionary acts, as opposed to ministerial acts.  A ministerial act refers to an act “which is performed in a prescribed manner without the exercise of judgment or discretion.”[1] In other words, for a plaintiff to allege the existence of a ministerial duty, he or she must demonstrate that “the defendant was required to perform in a prescribed manner and failed to do so.”[2] Connecticut courts have generally found that the supervision of students, implementation of school policies, and control of a school and its students are carried out through discretionary acts,[3] which allow a school to invoke governmental immunity if subjected to a suit.

However, there are three exceptions to discretionary act immunity.  Liability may be imposed for a discretionary act where the conduct alleged involves malice, wantonness, or intent to injure; liability may be imposed for a discretionary act when a statute specifically provides for a cause of action against a municipality for failure to enforce certain laws; and finally, liability may be imposed “when the circumstances make it apparent to the public officer that his or her failure to act would be likely to subject an identifiable person to imminent harm.”[4] It is this last exception, the identifiable person-imminent harm exception, which is relevant in school bullying cases.  The Connecticut Supreme Court has “construed this exception to apply not only to identifiable individuals, but also to narrowly defined identifiable classes of foreseeable victims.”[5] Such victims can include victims of school bullying in cases where imminent harm was foreseeable if the defendants did not act with reasonable care.  Whether it would be apparent to a school district that their actions, or inactions, would be likely to subject a plaintiff to harm will be a major factor that a court uses in determining whether a school district can be immune from a bullying suit based on governmental immunity.

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


[1] Heigl v. New Canaan, 218 Conn. 1, 5, 587 A.2d 423 (1991).

[2] Id.

[3] Rigoli v. Town of Shelton, 2012 Conn. Super. LEXIS 349, at *9 (Feb. 6, 2012).

[4] Straiton v. New Milford Bd. Of Educ., 2012 Conn. Super. LEXIS 773, at *20 (Mar. 13, 2012), quoting Violano v. Fernandez, 280 Conn. 310, 319-20 (2006).

[5] Straiton, at *22.

Excessive Geographical Limitation in Connecticut Non-Compete Agreement Found Unenforceable

Excessive Geographical Limitation in Connecticut Non-Compete Agreement Found Unenforceable
Timenterial, Inc. v. Dagata, 29 Conn. Supp. 180

Timenterial was a company that engaged in the sale and rental of mobile units and had previously employed Mr. James Dagata. The employment contract contained a clause wherein Mr. Dagata agreed not to “engage in any business venture having to do with the sale or rental of mobile homes or mobile offices in a fifty miles radius from any existing Timenterial, Inc. sales lot” for one year following the termination of his employment. Mr. Dagata terminated his employment on June 1, 1970 and Timenterial claimed that he had been active in business ventures involving mobile homes beginning June 12, 1970 at an office located a mere one-quarter mile from Timenterial’s Plainville, CT office. Timenterial commenced a suit for violation of the non-compete agreement and sought to restrain Mr. Dagata from further mobile home business ventures in accordance with the agreement.
The court found in favor of Mr. Dagata and held that the non-compete agreement was unenforceable because the geographical restriction in the agreement was unreasonable and excessive. At the time of legal proceedings, Timenterial had seven facilities in Connecticut, four in Massachusetts, two in Vermont, and one in New Hampshire. The court applied the fifty-mile radius as stipulated in the agreement and held that this territorial prohibition was unreasonable. The application of the agreement would mean that Mr. Dagata could not be involved in the mobile homes business in all or substantial parts of Connecticut, New York, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island. This placed excessive restrictions on Mr. Dagata and severely limited the opportunity for him to practice his occupation. This excessive and burdensome characteristic of the non-compete rendered the agreement unenforceable and the court concluded that Mr. Dagata’s actions did not constitute a breach of the restrictive covenant.
If you have any questions relating to your non-compete agreement or would like to discuss any element of your employment agreement, p

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Fairfield County Employment Law Attorneys

Executive Employment Agreements and non-compete agreements in Fairfield County, Connecticut. Contact the Fairfield County employment law attorneys at Maya Murphy, P.C. for the benefit of more than 20 years of experience in employment law. We represent clients from throughout Fairfield County in Connecticut in matters such as severance disputes, employment contract disputes, and executive compensation. Free initial consultations.

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Identifying de facto Geographical Limitations in Connecticut Non-Compete Agreement

Identifying de facto Geographical Limitations on Connecticut Non-Compete Agreement
New Haven Tobacco Co., Inc. v. Perrelli, 18 Conn.App. 531

New Haven Tobacco Company operated a wholesale tobacco business and entered into an employment contract with Mr. Frank Perrelli in December 1980. As part of the contract Mr. Perrelli signed a non-compete agreement wherein he agreed to “not directly or indirectly sell products similar to those of the Employer (New Haven Tobacco Co.) to any of the customers he has dealt with or has discovered and became aware of while in the employ of the Employer for a period of twenty-four months from the termination of his employment”. In November 1981 Mr. Perrelli voluntarily left the employ of New Haven Tobacco and proceeded to start his own wholesale tobacco business. New Haven Tobacco sued to recover money damages and for injunctive relief in the form of a court order restraining Mr. Perrelli’s wholesale tobacco business activities.
The trial court found in favor of Mr. Perrelli and denied New Haven Tobacco’s injunction application. It found that the agreement lacked geographical limitations and went against the public’s interest New Haven Tobacco appealed to the Appellate Court of Connecticut claiming that the trial court erred when it held that the non-compete agreement was unenforceable. The Appellate Court reversed the trial court’s decision and found in favor of New Haven Tobacco. The Appellate Court held that the agreement in dispute focused not on Mr. Perrelli engaging in a certain business sector, but instead on the prohibition of transacting with a specific group of customers, namely those of his former employer, New Haven Tobacco. By limiting the customers the agreement applied to, the agreement in essence instituted a geographical limitation. The customer list was local and de facto limited the agreement to the greater New Haven area. The Appellate Court also held that the trial court erred with regard to invalidating the non-compete agreement on the grounds of public interest. The trial court concluded that the provisions of the agreement aided in creating and maintaining a monopoly on the wholesale tobacco business and thus disadvantaged customers and was contrary to public interest. The Appellate Court however found this assertion to be unsubstantiated and held that the non-compete agreement did not unreasonably interfere with the public’ interest. The enforcement of the non-compete agreement would not disadvantage the public or place hardships on individuals wishing to transact in the local tobacco wholesale industry.
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 JMaya@Mayalaw.com.

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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.

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.

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).

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.

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.

 

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