Lambda Legal Applauds Connecticut Court for Extending Protections against Harassment to Gay Workers

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"We are thrilled that the precedent has been set that employers may not allow work environments that are hostile to gay employees."
May 18, 2009

(Hartford, CT, May 18, 2009) — The Superior Court in Hartford, Connecticut today ruled that Connecticut’s Fair Employment Practices Act prohibits antigay harassment against employees.


"As the court held, Connecticut law requires employers to protect their employees from antigay harassment. Birken Manufacturing Company should stop fighting this law and start following it, so that its employees — gay and straight — all have a workplace free from harassment," said Thomas W. Ude, Jr., Senior Staff Attorney at Lambda Legal. "We are thrilled that the precedent has been set that employers may not allow work environments that are hostile to gay employees."


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. 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 $94,500. However, on February 12, 2009, the employer appealed the jury award, arguing that employers are not liable for antigay intimidation even though they are accountable for preventing other types of harassment in the workplace. Oral arguments in the case were held on March 16, 2009.


Lambda Legal's friend–of–the–court brief argued that the jury award 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 urged 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 sought to ensure that the law was rigorously applied to ensure that employers understand their duty to protect gay employees — like other employees — from hostile workplaces. Today’s decision makes clear that employers are held to this standard. Thomas W. Ude, Jr., Senior Staff Attorney at Lambda Legal is handling the matter for Lambda Legal.


The case is Luis Patino v. Birken Manufacturing Co.


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

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