October 16, 2015.
Complaint alleging discriminatory discharge from employment,
brought to the Workers' Compensation Commissioner for the
First District, who issued a decision dismissing the
plaintiff's claim, from which the plaintiff appealed to
plaintiff, who had sought ergonomic changes to her work area
because of worsening back pain, brought an action against her
defendant employer pursuant to statute (§ 31-290a),
claiming that she was constructively discharged from her
employment as a result of her having exercised her rights
under the Workers' Compensation Act (§ 31-275 et
seq.). She claimed that the defendant had failed to provide
reasonable accommodations for her physical impairments, and
created a hostile work environment by initiating criminal and
civil ethics investigations of her with the purpose to harass
her. As a result, she claimed, she was forced to retire after
her nonservice disability retirement application was
approved. The Workers' Compensation Commissioner
dismissed her claim after finding that she had not sustained
her burden of proving that the defendant had created a
hostile work environment that caused her to be constructively
discharged from her employment. On appeal, the plaintiff
claimed, inter alia, that the commissioner's factual
findings were clearly erroneous. Held that the
commissioner's decision was not clearly erroneous, as the
evidence supported his finding that the defendant's
actions were not discriminatory: although the plaintiff
established a prima facie case of constructive discharge, the
commissioner determined that the defendant had rebutted that
presumption and that the plaintiff did not meet her burden of
demonstrating that the defendant created a hostile work
environment that resulted in her constructive discharge;
moreover, testimony by the defendant's employees undercut
the plaintiff's claim that she was pressured to leave her
job and that the defendant did not make reasonable
accommodations for her, criminal and civil ethics
investigators testified that no one associated with the
defendant had requested them to pursue their investigations
of the plaintiff, and it was the commissioner's function
to find facts and determine the credibility of witnesses.
Dickman, self-represented, the appellant (plaintiff).
G. Widem, assistant attorney general, with whom, on the
brief, were George Jepsen, attorney general, and Philip M.
Schultz, assistant attorney general, for the appellee
C. J., and Gruendel and Sheldon, Js. DiPENTIMA, C. J. In this
opinion the other judges concurred.
Conn.App. 443] DiPENTIMA, C. J.
plaintiff, Priscilla Dickman, appeals from the decision of
the Workers' Compensation Commissioner for the first
district (commissioner) dismissing her General Statutes
§ 31-290a discriminatory
discharge claim against the defendant, the University of
Connecticut Health Center. On appeal, the self-represented
plaintiff challenges the commissioner's [162
Conn.App. 444] findings and conclusions. The defendant
responds that the plaintiff has failed to provide any grounds
for reversing the commissioner's dismissal, and that the
record supports the commissioner's
dismissal. We agree with the defendant, and,
accordingly, affirm the decision of the commissioner.
following procedural history is relevant to this appeal. The
plaintiff filed this discriminatory discharge claim in
January, 2012, pursuant to § 31-290a (b) (2), alleging
that the defendant constructively discharged her because she
exercised rights afforded to her under the Workers'
Compensation Act, General Statutes § 31-275 et seq.
Specifically, the plaintiff claimed that because the
defendant failed to accommodate her physical impairments and
because it initiated criminal and civil ethics investigations
with the purpose to harass her, the defendant created a
hostile work environment, thereby forcing her to retire. The
plaintiff sought, inter alia, a finding that the defendant,
by its alleged conduct, violated § 31-290a. The
commissioner held seven formal hearings between 2012 and 2014
in which testimony was received from nine witnesses,
deposition testimony was received from one additional
witness, and more than 100 exhibits were admitted into
evidence. The [162 Conn.App. 445] commissioner found in favor
of the defendant and dismissed the plaintiff's
discriminatory discharge claim. This appeal followed.
forth the relevant facts found by the commissioner. The
defendant employed ...