Lambda Legal Urges Connecticut Court to Stand Behind Law Protecting Gay Workers from Harassment

"Connecticut's laws protecting gay and lesbian employees against discrimination do not leave employers the option of allowing antigay harassment."

Date

Date: 
03/17/2009

(Hartford, CT, March 16, 2009) — At the Superior Court in Hartford, Connecticut on Friday, Lambda Legal filed a friend–of–the–court brief seeking to ensure that Connecticut's laws protecting employees from discrimination in the workplace are properly applied to protect gay and lesbian employees against discrimination in the form of harassment and a hostile working environment.


"Connecticut’s laws protecting gay and lesbian employees against discrimination do not leave employers the option of allowing antigay harassment,” said Thomas W. Ude, Jr., Senior Staff Attorney at Lambda Legal. “Employers may not tolerate work environments that are hostile to gay employees because of severe antigay intimidation, ridicule and insult – just as employers may not tolerate work environments that are hostile toward people because of their race, sex, disability, or religion – or any other trait protected under Connecticut’s law."


In early March, Lambda Legal submitted a petition seeking permission to file a friend–of–the–court brief in support of Luis Patino, former employee of Birken Manufacturing Co., who claims damages under Connecticut's employment antidiscrimination law because he was subjected to severe harassment during his employment, including the widespread use of antigay names and slurs in his workplace. Patino filed a series of complaints with the Connecticut Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities, and filed his current lawsuit in 2005. On February 3, 2009, a jury found in favor of Patino on his hostile work environment claim, and awarded him non–economic damages of $94,500. However, on February 12, 2009, the employer moved to set aside that verdict, arguing that employers are not liable for antigay intimidation even though they are accountable for preventing other types of harassment in the workplace. The defendants' motion was heard at 2pm today.


Lambda Legal's friend–of–the–court brief argues that the verdict should stand because the state law prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation protects workers against the kind of "hostile work environment" that Patino experienced. Lambda Legal's brief urges the trial court to hold that Connecticut employers who permit a work environment that is hostile to gay and lesbian employees violate state antidiscrimination statutes, and seeks to ensure that the law is rigorously applied to ensure that employers understand their duty to protect gay employees — like other employees — from hostile workplaces.


The case is Luis Patino v. Birken Manufacturing Co.


Thomas W. Ude, Jr., Senior Staff Attorney at Lambda Legal is handling the matter for Lambda Legal.


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Erin Baer 212-809-8585 ext 267; Email: ebaer@lambdalegal.org

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