Women and Justice: Jurisdiction

Domestic Case Law

Thames Talent, Ltd. v. Com'n on Human Rights and Opportunities Connecticut Supreme Court (2003)

Employment discrimination, Sexual harassment

Plaintiff was hired as a bookkeeper and secretary for the defendant company, and worked exclusively for the company’s president. The president subjected plaintiff to comments about the her clothing and body, quizzed her about intimate details of her sex life, purchased underwear for her, and showed her pictures of naked women. Some of this behavior was done in front of other employees. In response, plaintiff began wearing baggy clothing to work and told the president that his behavior made her uncomfortable. Subsequently, in a discussion about plaintiff’s work performance, the president told plaintiff that he was happy with her work and that she may receive a raise if her performance continued. Two days after this discussion, plaintiff met with the president again to discuss her discomfort at work due to his comments. Several days later, the president terminated plaintiff’s employment. Plaintiff sought back pay and reimbursement to the state for unemployment compensation benefits. The trial court granted back pay but did not order reimbursement. Defendant appealed against having to provide back pay, arguing that under Gen. Stat. § 46a-86, an order of reinstatement to the employment position is a prerequisite for back pay or reimbursement, and the court had not ordered reinstatement. The court rejected this argument and found it could order back pay and reimbursement even though reinstatement to the position was not ordered by the trial court.



Krystyna W. v. Janusz W. Connecticut Court of Appeals (2011)

Domestic and intimate partner violence

Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court’s grant of a domestic violence restraining order requested by plaintiff against her husband. In this case, the defendant had threatened to seek revenge on his children because they had hospitalized him. Defendant walked around the house with knives, verbally abused the children, and prevented the family from sleeping by making loud noises. While intoxicated, defendant had also previously asked his son to kill him with a hammer and knife. The court noted that Connecticut’s Gen. Stat. § 46b-15 “clearly requires a continuous threat of present physical pain or physical injury before a court can grant a domestic violence restraining order.” The court found that the above facts presented enough of a continuous threat of present physical pain or injury so that the trial court’s ruling was not an abuse of discretion, and affirmed the grant of a restraining order.



Joni S. v. Ricky S. Connecticut Court of Appeals (2010)

Domestic and intimate partner violence

Defendant appealed the trial court’s award of a restraining order. The trial court had granted the order because the plaintiff made a showing that the defendant, her ex-husband, was obsessed with her to a point where it clouded his judgment and she was afraid he would harm her. Plaintiff made this showing through evidence that after the parties were divorced, plaintiff had seen the defendant drive by her house repeatedly, she had received flowers from the defendant one day at work and later that night under the windshield wiper of her car, she was concerned that the defendant was in her driveway while they were separated, and that she was afraid because she thought the defendant went to anger management therapy and lived nearby. The parties’ daughter testified that she also believed the defendant was obsessed with the plaintiff. Under Ct. Gen. S. § 46b-15, anyone who has been subject to a continuous threat of present physical pain or physical injury by another household member or is in a dating relationship and been subjected to these threats may apply to the superior court for relief. The appellate court found the plaintiff showed sufficient evidence of a continuous threat of present physical pain or physical injury, as the defendant’s obsession with her could lead him to harm her, and affirmed the trial court’s grant of a restraining order.



State v. Swanson Connecticut Superior Court (2000)

Domestic and intimate partner violence

Defendant argued that it was unconstitutional for a court to issue a protective order that resulted in barring a person from his home as a result of an arrest for domestic violence. Under Gen. Stat. § 46b-38c, a court is authorized to issue a protective order to include “provisions necessary to protect the victim from threats, harassment, injury or intimidation by the defendant including but not limited to, an order enjoining the defendant from (1) imposing any restraint upon the person or liberty of the victim; (2) threatening, harassing, assaulting, molesting or sexually assaulting the victim; or (3) entering the family dwelling or the dwelling of the victim.” Here, the court had issued a protective order for the defendant’s wife. The defendant argued that the statute violated his substantive due process rights because he was precluded access to his home and property and became subject to enhanced criminal penalties and liabilities. The court found that even though the defendant had a due process interest, the statute was intended to protect victims and not, rather, punish defendants. The court noted that the state had a legitimate interest in providing this protection. Thus, the court found the statute to be constitutional and a court may bar a defendant from his home in a domestic violence situation.



State v. Little, 127 Conn.App. 336 Connecticut Court of Appeals (2011)

Sexual violence and rape

Here, the defendant had a prior conviction of sexual assault in the third degree.  He was sentenced to two years of prison with three years probation.  Under Gen. Stat. § 54-252, the defendant was required to register as a sex offender with the sex offender registry unit of the state policy.  Id. at 338.  While the defendant initially registered after his release from prison, he later failed to comply with all of the registration reporting requirements.  Id.  Specifically, he failed to return an address verification form.  The defendant had moved and six months later, contacted the registry office to send correspondence to his new address so he could update his registry.  Id.  The defendant since remained in compliance with registry requirements.  Nonetheless, the court affirmed the trial court’s conviction that the defendant failed to comply with sex offender registration requirements.



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.

 



Okun v. Misiewicz Connecticut Superior Court (2001)

Gender discrimination

Here, the plaintiff filed a claim of sexual harassment against the defendant under Gen. Stat. § 46a-60, alleging that the harassment caused low self esteem, damage to the plaintiff’s career and reputation, lost wages, lost insurance, lost fringe benefits, and physical and mental pain and suffering. The defendant argued that the plaintiff could not bring a claim for a hostile working environment because under § 46a-82, the plaintiff was required to exhaust administrative remedies prior to seeking redress in court. Id. at *1. Specifically, the plaintiff was required to file a complaint with the Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities and obtain a release from the Commission to file an action in court. Id. at *2. The plaintiff failed to do either of these and claimed she was exempt; she claimed the Commission’s remedies were inadequate because the Commission has no authority to award compensatory and punitive damages, both of which the plaintiff sought. Id. The court dismissed the plaintiff’s complaint as it found that the Commission’s authority is not based upon a plaintiff’s preferred remedy; she must still file a complaint with the Commission and obtain a release to bring an action in court. Id. at *4.



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.