Women and Justice: Court: Supreme Court of Connecticut

Domestic Case Law

Craine v. Trinity College Supreme Court of Connecticut (2002)

Employment discrimination, Gender discrimination

Here, the plaintiff was hired by the defendant as an assistant professor. Throughout her employment, she was reappointed and complimented by the appointments and promotions committee. In her positions, the plaintiff taught, researched, and participated in service efforts for the defendant. Id. at 629-30. Despite that the plaintiff published several articles, taught students and supervised student research, during her tenure review in her sixth year of employment, she was denied tenure. Id. at 632-33. The tenure committee found the plaintiff was a “good teacher but not an extraordinary one,” and found her service to the school to be adequate. However the committee found her research and scholarship was inadequate, since she had only published one article in a refereed professional journal (notwithstanding that she had other publications). Id. at 634. The plaintiff claimed that the tenure process as it applied to her was discriminatory. The court noted that to establish a prima facie case of gender discrimination in the work environment, a plaintiff must show: “(1) she was a member of a protected class; (2) she was qualified for her position; (3) she was discharged; and (4) the termination occurred under circumstances giving rise to an inference of discrimination.” Id. at 225-26. The court noted to meet the fourth element, the plaintiff must show that “she was treated less favorably than comparable male employees in circumstances from which a gender-based motive could be inferred.” Id. at 638. Once a prima facie case is established, to succeed on a gender discrimination claim, the plaintiff must go further to show that the defendant was motivated by an intent to discriminate against the plaintiff in its acts.



Brittell v. Dep’t. of Correction Supreme Court of Connecticut (1998)

Sexual harassment

Here, a former correction officer claimed the Department of Correction created a hostile work environment through an officer’s sexual harassment. Prior to the plaintiff’s employment, she attended a training academy to be a correction officer. One of the plaintiff’s classmates commented that the plaintiff did not date men and that she liked women. The plaintiff warned the classmate to never make such a comment again, but she did not report the comment to a supervisor. Id. at 151. Within a few months after the plaintiff started working, inmates began making sexually obscene comments towards her. As the comments continued and took a threatening nature, i.e.--inmates threatened to assault her to determine her gender, the plaintiff reported the comments. The plaintiff was told by inmates that officers had started a rumor about her that she had a sex change operation, but was not given names. Id. at 151-52. The defendant underwent an investigation and questioned officers. It also warned all employees against sexual harassment. It offered the plaintiff aid through the employee assistance program, which the plaintiff declined. Id. at 153. The defendant continued to monitor and investigate the situation as the comments and harassment continued, and eventually offered to transfer the plaintiff to any institution of her choice within the facility, but the plaintiff declined. Id. at 159. The plaintiff then asked to go on unpaid medical leave, which was granted. The plaintiff then failed to submit the necessary medical documentation and she was considered to have resigned. Id. at 160-61. The plaintiff then sued for sexual harassment creating a hostile work environment and claimed that the defendant failed to adequately investigate and remedy the harassment. The court considered Gen. Stat. §46a-60, which prohibits discriminatory employment practices. The court then looked to federal law for guidance on whether to hold an employer liable for sexual harassment committed by the plaintiff’s co-workers. The court concluded that “once an employer has knowledge of a sexually combative atmosphere in the work-place, he or she has a duty to take reasonable steps to eliminate it.” Id. at 168 (quoting Snell v. Suffolk County, 782 F.2d 1094, 1104 (2d Cir. 1986)). The court noted that an employer’s response will be analyzed in terms of how prompt, appropriate and adequate it was. Id. The court found that the defendant did not only investigate the harassment but also made reasonable efforts to identify the inmates and officers responsible for the rumors, warned all staff that sexual harassment would not be tolerated, provided the plaintiff with access to supervisors to report any incidents to, and offered a transfer to the plaintiff which was in no way onerous, punitive or unreasonable. Id. at 171-72. The court found this was reasonable and the defendant would not be liable.



Putnam v. Kennedy Supreme Court of Connecticut (2006)

Domestic and intimate partner violence

While Gen. Stat. § 46b-15 allows a plaintiff to obtain a domestic restraining order, the Connecticut Supreme Court held in Putnam that such an order is an appealable final judgment.  In other words, this protection is somewhat limited as a defendant is able to appeal the issuance of a restraining order.  Id. at 167.  Here, the defendant appealed the trial court’s grant of a domestic restraining order and the appellate court found the appeal is moot, as such an order is not appealable as it is not a final judgment.  Id.  The Connecticut Supreme Court disagreed and found that it is a final judgment and an appeal is permissible due to the “potentially irreparable effects of § 46b-15 restraining orders on relationships within the family unit.”  Id.