United States District Court, D. Connecticut
RULING GRANTING SUMMARY JUDGMENT
Jeffrey Alker Meyer United States District Judge
a workplace discrimination case brought under Connecticut
state law. Plaintiff Mark Dieterle is a gay man, and for six
years he was a store manager at a Rite Aid Pharmacy in
Putnam, Connecticut. In 2008, a co-worker posted an altered,
offensive photograph of plaintiff to a store bulletin board.
The co-worker who claimed responsibility for the incident was
reported, warned, and transferred. Four years later,
plaintiff was terminated from his job after an incident in
which he hit a co-worker on the arm with a package of candy
bars. Plaintiff claims he was terminated as the result of
discrimination on the basis of his sexual orientation and in
retaliation for complaining about the photograph in 2008.
Defendants have moved for summary judgment. I conclude there
are no genuine issues of material fact left for trial and
will grant defendants' motion for summary judgment.
following facts are undisputed or, where disputed, are
presented in the light most favorable to plaintiff. Plaintiff
Mark Dieterle brings this case against Rite Aid Pharmacy and
related defendants. He was hired as a store manager for the
Rite Aid store in Putnam, Connecticut in 2006.
is a gay man, and his co-workers were widely aware of this
fact. He worked directly under district manager James Paquin.
Until shortly before his termination, plaintiff received
generally positive reviews, and he had no complaints against
him. Doc. #40-1 at ¶¶ 11-13; Doc. #29-1 at 184.
2008, plaintiff discovered a picture of himself pinned to the
bulletin board at the store. It had been altered so that it
appeared that plaintiff was wearing a dress, and the picture
had a heart drawn around his head with the word
“sweetheart.” The following day, plaintiff
complained to Paquin, stating that he believed the photograph
had been intended to harass plaintiff because of his sexual
assistant manager took responsibility for posting the
photograph. Paquin reported the incident to John Mackintosh,
the Manager of Associate Relations. Rite Aid management then
warned the assistant manager and transferred him to another
store, with no demotion or pay reduction. Defendants claim
the assistant manager was issued a written warning, but the
document has not been preserved. Plaintiff admits that he
“was content with the transfer” of the assistant
manager to another store. Doc. #40-1 at ¶¶ 20,
24-25, 38-40, 43.
this complaint, plaintiff continued to receive positive
performance reviews from Paquin. He admits he had few issues
with Paquin until September 2011, when plaintiff's
partner died of cancer. After that, he claims that Paquin
began treating him differently, being more critical and
distant. According to plaintiff, Paquin's “mission
every time he came into my store was to get me, to play on my
emotions, and get me wound up so I had to take a pill,
meaning an anxiety pill.” Plaintiff further claims that
Paquin “liked to push my buttons, tweak me and play on
my emotions.” But he “accepted James [Paquin] for
what he was. I'm gay . . . People are going to treat me
differently.” Plaintiff believes Paquin treated him
this way because plaintiff is gay. Following the death of
plaintiff's partner, Paquin rated plaintiff's
attitude as “needs improvement” on his annual
review and told him that he had to “leave his personal
life at home.” Nonetheless, Paquin “pulled
strings” and made sure plaintiff still received a
roughly $8, 000 bonus. Doc. #29-1 at 182, 185-86; 191; Doc.
#40-1 at ¶¶ 51, 52.
2012, Crystal Pomroy, a colleague of plaintiff's, filed a
complaint against him. The complaint arose from an incident
in the store when plaintiff criticized the way that Pomroy
was stocking a shelf; plaintiff tapped her on the arm twice
with a pack of eight “fun size” candy bars.
Following the tap, Pomroy immediately backed away from
plaintiff and moved to leave the aisle to get away from him.
Plaintiff admitted that Pomroy had a right to be agitated,
and that he had overstepped his boundaries.
reported this incident to Paquin, and Paquin then notified HR
Associate Manager John Mackintosh, and he had a conversation
with Pomroy. She told Mackintosh that this was not the first
time plaintiff had made inappropriate physical contact with
her. Plaintiff avers that Mackintosh took no steps to confirm
these statements, and denies there was ever any other
inappropriate physical contact. Doc. #40-1 at ¶¶
53-55, 59, 65.
then asked Mark Ringuette to investigate the matter further.
Plaintiff admitted to Ringuette that he tapped Pomroy at
least twice with the package of candy bars. Another employee,
Connie Lafortune, described two other incidents that could be
construed as inappropriate physical contact from plaintiff,
but also described that she had a friendly relationship with
plaintiff and never felt threatened by him.
was also interviewed. At his deposition, he stated he thought
the overall investigation was an appropriate response to the
complaint from Pomroy. Doc. # 29-1 at 250. Following the
entire investigation, plaintiff was fired for allegedly
violating the workplace violence policy.
brought this lawsuit in state court in 2014, alleging
discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in
violation of the Connecticut Fair Employment Practices Act
and retaliation against him for making his 2008 complaint.
Defendants removed the case to federal court under this