CT High Courts Says Employers Can be Liable for Anti-Gay Harassment

GLAD & CELA Applaud Ruling

Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders (GLAD) and the Connecticut Employment Lawyers Association (CELA) applaud a May 4 ruling from the Connecticut Supreme Court that employers can be liable if they fail to protect employees from harassment based on sexual orientation. In Patino v. Birken Manufacturing Company (Docket No. 18441), the Court also upheld a jury award of $95,000 in favor of plaintiff Luis Patino.

When Patino was employed as a machinist by the defendant, he was the object of pervasive name-calling for several years, including “faggot go home,” and “faggot get out of here.” He was subjected to slurs in English, Spanish and Italian, such as “pato,” “maricón,”  “pira,” and “homo.” By affirming that employees can sue employers for anti-gay harassment in the workplace, the Court rejected the defendant’s argument that workplace harassment claims are limited to sexual harassment.

GLAD and CELA filed an amicus  brief on behalf of seven Connecticut civil rights groups: the African-American Affairs Commission, the Center for Disability Rights, the Connecticut Alliance for Business Opportunities, the Connecticut Hispanic Bar Association, the Connecticut Transadvocacy Coalition, the Permanent Commission on the Status of Women, and Triangle Community Center.

In urging the Court to find coverage under Connecticut law for cases of antigay workplace harassment, the brief highlighted the scientific literature demonstrating that incidents of discrimination, including based on sexual orientation and race, can lead directly to mental and physical harm.

GLAD Senior Attorney Ben Klein said “Anti-gay prejudice is hardly a relic of the past even though Connecticut now has formal legal equality for gay and lesbian people. The Supreme Court’s decision sends a powerful message that employers who tolerate anti-gay harassment will pay a price.”

The plaintiff Luis Patino was represented by Attorney Jon L. Schoenhorn of Hartford. The amicus brief was written by Ben Klein of GLAD in Boston, MA and Nina T. Pirrotti of Garrison, Levin-Epstein, Chimes, Richardson & Fitzgerald, P.C. in New Haven.

Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders is New England’s leading legal organization dedicated to ending discrimination based on sexual orientation, HIV status, and gender identity and expression.  In 2008, GLAD won marriage equality in Connecticut with the case Kerrigan v. Department of Public Health.

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