Patino v. Birken Manufacturing Co.
Luis Patino, a former employee of Birken Manufacturing Company, filed a lawsuit in the Connecticut Superior Court in Hartford. In the lawsuit, he claimed that Birken violated Connecticut's employment antidiscrimination law by allowing him to be subjected to a work environment permeated with antigay slurs and abuse. A jury found in favor of Patino, but Birken moved to set aside the verdict, arguing that the company had no duty to protect its employees from antigay harassment. Lambda Legal filed a friend-of-the-court brief to argue that Connecticut law requires employers to protect their employees from severe antigay harassment and, therefore, the verdict should stand.
Connecticut is one of 20 states that prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation. Particularly in the absence of federal law prohibiting discrimination based on a person's sexual orientation, it is important that state laws be understood to prohibit antigay harassment — just as antidiscrimination laws are already understood to prohibit work environments that are hostile based on a person's race or sex.
Lambda Legal's Impact
Connecticut's sexual orientation antidiscrimination law is similar to its laws prohibiting discrimination based on race, sex and religion, and to federal antidiscrimination laws. A win in this case would make it clear that employers cannot allow their employees to be subjected to antigay harassment.
- February 2009 Jury finds that Birken allowed its employee, Luis Patino, to be subjected to severe antigay harassment by coworkers. Birken moves to set aside that verdict, arguing that Connecticut law allows employees to be harassed because of their sexual orientation.
- March 2009 Lambda Legal files friend-of-the-court brief in support of Patino, arguing that Connecticut law protects employees from severe antigay harassment.
- May 2009 Court rejects defendant's claim that Connecticut law does not protect employees from severe antigay harassment, and enters judgment for Patino on the jury's verdict.
- June 2009 Birken Manufacturing files appeal to Connecticut Appellate Court.
- September 2009 Connecticut Supreme Court transfers appeal to itself from Appellate Court.
- May 2010 Birken files its Brief on Appeal.
- July 2010 Patino files his Brief on Appeal.
- August 2010 Lambda Legal, the Connecticut Legal Rights Project and Connecticut Women's Education and Legal Fund file their brief as amici.
- November 2011 Connecticut Supreme Court hears oral argument.
- May 2012 Connecticut Supreme Court finds unanimously in favor of Patino.
Thomas W. Ude, Jr.