United States District Court, D. Connecticut
MEMORANDUM OF DECISION ON DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR
W. EGINTON, SENIOR UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
an action by plaintiff Donna Szestakow against defendant
Metropolitan District Commission, alleging retaliation in
violation of the Family and Medical Leave Act
(“FMLA”) (Count I); discrimination on the basis
of disability in violation of the Americans with Disabilities
Act (“ADA”) (Count II); harassment and
discrimination on the basis of disability in violation of the
Connecticut Fair Employment Practices Act
(“CFEPA”) (Count III); retaliatory discharge in
violation of the CFEPA (Count IV); retaliatory discharge in
violation of the ADA (Count V); and retaliatory discharge in
violation of the FMLA (Count VI). Defendant has moved for
summary judgment on all counts. For the following reasons,
the motion will be denied.
following facts are gleaned from the parties' statements
of fact, affidavits, deposition transcripts, and other
is a nonprofit municipal corporation chartered by the
Connecticut General Assembly in 1929 and provides critical
water and wastewater treatment services and products to eight
member towns and to other municipal entities within its
29-member Board of Commissioners, referred to as the District
Board, governs the District. Seventeen commissioners are
appointed by the member municipalities, eight are appointed
by the Governor, and four are appointed by the leadership of
the Connecticut State Legislature. All commissioners serve
without remuneration for terms of six years and those
commissioners appointed by the member municipalities and
legislative leadership serve until their successor is
appointed and qualified, while commissioners appointed by the
Governor serve for the defined term.
commenced her employment with defendant in November 1992. By
2007, plaintiff was working as a Senior Human Resources
Analyst. The position was a professional level, salaried,
nonunion position classified as an “EE-11" in
defendant's job classification system. Plaintiff's
responsibilities included implementing human resources
policies and practices, including recruitment and employment
benefits. Beginning in June 2002, plaintiff reported to the
Director of Human Resources, Patricia Speicher Werbner.
plaintiff's request, defendant's then Chief
Executive, Charles Sheehan, agreed to meet with plaintiff
before work to discuss plaintiff's concerns regarding her
supervisor, Ms. Werbner. Mr. Sheehan told plaintiff to put
her concerns in writing, which she did in an August 10, 2007,
letter to Mr. Sheehan. Part of plaintiff's letter
asserted that Ms. Werbner had treated plaintiff in a
derogatory and hostile manner for the previous five years.
Plaintiff's letter indicated that Ms. Werbner (1) called
plaintiff's personal cell phone on her days off; (2)
refused to conduct annual performance reviews for plaintiff;
(3) failed to address a request to reclassify plaintiff's
position to a higher pay grade; (4) made belittling comments
concerning plaintiff to HR staff; (5) refused to respond to
questions from plaintiff; (6) assigned plaintiff work with
little to no lead-time; and (7) gave inconsistent directives
and feedback to plaintiff.
responded to plaintiff's letter by retaining attorneys
Albert Zakarian and Stacey Smith Walsh from Day Pitney LLP to
investigate plaintiff's concerns. Attorney Walsh
interviewed plaintiff in August 2007. Plaintiff never
explicitly stated that her alleged treatment by defendant was
based upon her status as a single mother with two special
needs children, or her stress and anxiety, or her use of FMLA
Zakarian and Walsh concluded that plaintiff's claims did
not constitute hostile work environment harassment or a
violation of defendant's policies. On September 19, 2007,
defendant informed plaintiff of the investigation's
findings. Mr. Sheehan also communicated to Ms. Werbner that
performance reviews needed to be completed annually. Mr.
Sheehan assigned Robert Zaik, Manager of Labor Relations for
defendant, and attorney David Ryan to review plaintiff's
2002 reclassification request.
took a leave of absence from January through March of 2008
based upon her own medical issues - major depression and
anxiety - and to care for her special needs son.
approved plaintiff's reclassification request based upon
finding, consistent with plaintiff's assertions, that
plaintiff performed a quasi-supervisory role. Plaintiff was
reclassified to a lead position of HR Technical Officer. This
change made plaintiff the highest classified analyst in the
HR department at that time. Defendant made the adjustment
retroactive to September 2002, the approximate time when the
reclassification request should have been completed. As a
result, plaintiff received a payment of approximately $18,
returned to work from her medical leave on March 31, 2008.
Defendant informed plaintiff of her new,
reclassification-based job responsibilities at an April 9,
2008, HR department staff meeting.
Werbner discussed with plaintiff the need to have plaintiff
train other people in the HR department on defendant's
software system. Ms. Werbner explained to plaintiff that
defendant realized while plaintiff was on medical leave that
employees in the HR department were overly reliant on
plaintiff, especially with regard to defendant's software
again submitted concerns about Ms. Werbner to defendant on
April 10, 2008. Plaintiff complained of (1) repeated
rescheduling of the meeting to discuss her change in job
duties; (2) perceived animosity from Ms. Werbner, based in
part on plaintiff's attendance of her son's medical
appointment. In response, defendant again hired Zakarian and
Walsh to investigate plaintiff's concerns. Their report
concluded that no law or policy had been violated; the HR
department simply failed to get along. Defendant notified
plaintiff of the investigation's findings.
decided to transfer plaintiff from Human Resources to
Customer Service in August 2008. At the time of transfer, Ms.
Webner reported directly to Robert Moore, defendant's
Chief Administrative Officer. Defendant contends that
plaintiff was transferred because it determined that the
relationship between plaintiff and Ms. Werbner was not going
to be constructive. Plaintiff responds that she was
transferred in retaliation for making complaints. Plaintiff
was informed of her reassignment on September 10, 2008. Her
salary and benefits did not change as a result of the
transfer. Defendant directed plaintiff to contact Ms. Evelyn
Tousignant, Principle HR Officer, to coordinate the
appropriate file transition and status update work.
asserts that she was unable to get in touch with Ms.
Tousignant the following morning of September 11, 2008. The
following Saturday at 7:30 p.m., plaintiff went to work to
collect her belongings. She tried to use her electronic
keycard, but it did not work, so plaintiff entered using her
metal key. Defendant then investigated plaintiff's entry
and removal of files to determine whether any confidential or
sensitive HR department information was improperly removed.
The investigation concluded that plaintiff had not removed
any such files. Plaintiff maintains (1) she had never been
told that she was not permitted to collect her belongings;
(2) no one told her that she was no longer permitted entry to
the HR offices; (3) no one ever asked her to turn in her
keycard or metal key; ...