United States District Court, D. Connecticut
ORDER ON DEFENDANTS' MOTION FOR SUMMARY
A. BOLDEN DISTRICT JUDGE
Bento and Melissa Dubiel (together “Plaintiffs”)
have brought this action against their former employer, the
City of Milford (“the City”), and their former
supervisor, Ms. Lisa Diamond Graham (together
“Defendants”). In their Second Amended Complaint
against Defendants, Ms. Bento and Ms. Dubiel allege various
federal claims as well as claims under Connecticut law,
relating to their employment with the City under Ms.
Bento and Ms. Dubiel each allege that Defendants violated
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 by retaliating
against them for making protected complaints against Ms.
Graham during the course of their employment (Counts
Fourteen-Fifteen). Second Am. Compl. ¶¶ 147-156,
ECF No. 57. Ms. Bento also brings the following additional
federal claims: violations of the Due Process Clause of the
Fourteenth Amendment and privacy-related rights pursuant to
42 U.S.C. § 1983 (Count One); discrimination under the
Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) (Count
Sixteen); and interference with medical leave in violation of
the Family and Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”) (Count
Seventeen). Id. at ¶¶ 80-85, 157-173.
also bring various claims under Connecticut law. Ms. Bento
and Ms. Dubiel each allege three separate state law
retaliation claims under Conn. Gen. Stat. § 31-51q
(Counts Two-Three), Conn. Gen. Stat. § 31-51m (Counts
Four-Five), and the Connecticut Fair Employment Practices Act
(“CFEPA”) (Counts Six-Seven). Id. at
¶¶ 86-115. Ms. Dubiel also brings a separate claim
of retaliation under Conn. Gen. Stat. § 31-290a (Count
Eight) alleging that the City retaliated against her for
bringing a worker's compensation claim. Id. at
¶¶ 116-121. Finally, Ms. Bento separately brings a
disability discrimination claim against the City under CFEPA
(Count Nine), claims of Intentional Infliction of Emotional
Distress (Count Ten) and Fraudulent Misrepresentation (Count
Thirteen) against Ms. Graham; and a claim of Negligent
Supervision against the City (Count Eleven). Id. at
¶¶ 122-141, 143-146.
reasons set forth below, Defendant's Motion for Summary
Judgment is GRANTED with respect to all federal claims. The
Court declines to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over the
remaining state law claims.
following facts are undisputed by the parties.
City previously employed Erica Bento as a full-time community
outreach worker, and Melissa Dubiel as a secretary and
bookkeeper. L.R. 56(a)(1) ¶¶ 2-3, ECF No. 84-2.
Since 2007, the City employed Lisa Diamond Graham as the
Executive Director of the Department of Human Services
(“DHS”). L.R. 56(a)(2) ¶ 5, ECF No. 101-1.
In that role, Ms. Graham served as the direct supervisor for
both Ms. Bento and Ms. Dubiel. Id. at ¶ 4.
2010 Incident Regarding Health Insurance Coverage
Ms. Bento began work with the City, Ms. Graham informed Ms.
Bento that her dependents would not be eligible for health
insurance coverage. Id. at ¶ 10. When Ms.
Bento's daughter needed certain medical testing in 2010,
Ms. Bento asked Ms. Graham how she could get medical coverage
for her daughter, and Ms. Graham informed her that
“open enrollment” had already concluded and Ms.
Bento needed a qualifying event, such as getting married, in
order to enroll in health insurance coverage for her
daughter. Id. at ¶¶ 11-12; Bento Dep. 90,
109-111, Def Ex. C, ECF No. 84-7. Ms. Bento contacted
then-Mayor James Richetellito to discuss the issue of health
insurance coverage for her daughter, and he informed Ms.
Bento that Ms. Graham's assessment of the situation was
“not the case.” L.R. 56(a)(2) ¶ 12; Def. Ex.
C at 111.
City arranged to discuss the issue of health insurance
coverage for Ms. Bento at the upcoming meeting of the Board
of Aldermen; however, following Ms. Graham's advice, Ms.
Bento got married to her boyfriend at the time in order to
ensure that she obtained medical coverage for her daughter.
L.R. 56(a)(2) ¶¶ 16-18; Def. Ex. C at 111. At Ms.
Graham's request, the City subsequently approved a budget
allocation to provide health insurance coverage to Ms.
Bento's daughter. L.R. 56(a)(2) ¶ 17.
Written Complaints against Ms. Graham and the City's
the course of their employment with the City, Ms. Bento and
Ms. Dubiel filed numerous complaints with the City. Apr. 2011
Compl., Def. Ex. K, ECF No. 84-15; Jan. 2012 Compl., Def. Ex.
R, ECF No. 85-7; Dubiel Feb. 2012 Compl., Def. Ex. S, ECF No.
85-8; Bento Feb. 2012 Compl., Def. Ex. V, ECF No. 85-11; Apr.
2012 Compl., Def. Ex. W, ECF No. 85-12. In each of these
complaints, they alleged various types of misconduct on the
part of Ms. Graham.
Ms. Bento's April 2011 Complaint
April of 2011, Ms. Bento filed a complaint with the
City's Personnel Director, John O'Connell, describing
an “unprofessional work environment” under Ms.
Graham's leadership. Def. Ex. K. Ms. Bento specifically
alleged that Ms. Graham had a practice of requesting and
disclosing detailed information pertaining to the personal
lives of employees, including requiring specific explanations
when employees needed to take time off and openly discussing
employee salaries in the office. Id. Ms. Bento
complained of a specific instance in which Ms. Graham
identified Ms. Bento as a “Milford working family in
need” during a staff meeting around the holidays,
resulting in personal embarrassment to Ms. Bento.
Id. Her complaint also alleged that Ms. Graham
regularly expressed favoritism among individual employees,
reported inflated DHS statistics to her superiors, used Ms.
Bento's participation in board meetings to “create
conflict” among different agencies, and made
misrepresentations at a meeting of the Board of Aldermen that
she would be forced to cut Ms. Bento's position if she
did not receive funding for health insurance benefits.
Id.; L.R. 56(a)(1) ¶¶ 20-32.
Ms. Bento's January 2012 Complaint
January of 2012, Ms. Bento made another complaint to Steven
Fournier, who was serving as Assistant to the Mayor. Jan.
2012 Compl., Def Ex. R, ECF No. 85-7. In this complaint, Ms.
Bento described an incident that took place after Ms. Bento
left work for lunch on January 20, 2012 and did not return
until 4:30 p.m. Id. When Ms. Bento returned to the
office in the late afternoon, she explained to Ms. Graham
that she had gone to the courthouse to obtain a protective
order against the father of one of her children. Records of
text communications between Ms. Bento and Ms. Graham from
that evening reflect that the two were in communication about
this incident outside of work hours and that Ms. Bento
expressed gratitude for Ms. Graham's support. Bento Text
Message Tr., Def. Ex. O, ECF No. 85-3.
January 2012 complaint alleges that three days later, on
January 23, 2012, Ms. Graham called Ms. Bento into her office
and requested that Ms. Bento sign a release allowing Ms.
Graham to speak with Ms. Bento's family therapist about
what was going on. Def. Ex. R. Ms. Bento refused.
Id. Ms. Graham subsequently called a staff meeting
during which she disclosed details pertaining to Ms.
Bento's protective order. Id.; L.R. 56(a)(1)
¶¶ 39-40. Ms. Bento reports that she went to the
hospital after that staff meeting, and she did not come to
work the following day, January 24, 2012. Def Ex. R. When she
returned to work on January 25, 2012, Ms. Graham asked her
what happened. Id. Ms. Bento told her that she was
not comfortable discussing anything personal in the office,
to which Ms. Graham responded with an expletive. Id.
Ms. Dubiel's February 2012 Complaint
February of 2012, Ms. Dubiel submitted a written complaint to
Stephen Fournier detailing similar allegations as those
contained in Ms. Bento's April 2011 complaint. Dubiel
Feb. 2012 Compl., Def. Ex. S, ECF No. 85-8. In addition to
alleging that Ms. Graham regularly shared personal
information pertaining to office employees, Ms. Dubiel also
alleged that Ms. Graham was careless about protecting client
confidentiality when discussing matters in the office,
altered meeting minutes and inflated statistics in her
reporting, and used “double standards” regarding
the distribution and use of “comp” time by
allowing more flexibility with favored employees.
complaint, Ms. Dubiel also described an incident in December
2011 when she took some time off from work due to a medical
issue. Id. Text message records from that time
reflect that Ms. Dubiel volunteered detailed and specific
information about her condition to Ms. Graham via text
message when requesting time off. Dubiel Text Message Tr.,
Def. Ex. N, ECF No. 85-2. Ms. Dubiel's complaint alleged
that Ms. Graham shared details about Ms. Dubiel's medical
issue with others in the office during her absence, causing
embarrassment to Ms. Dubiel. Def. Ex. S.
Ms. Bento's February 2012 Complaint
Bento submitted another written complaint to John
O'Connell in February 2012, detailing allegations similar
to those previously described regarding the work environment
under Ms. Graham's leadership. Bento Feb. 2012 Compl.,
Def. Ex. V, ECF No. 85-11. This complaint also described an
incident in which Ms. Graham publicly told Ms. Bento that if
Ms. Bento ever got pregnant, she would be fired. Id.
Ms. Bento was not pregnant at the time, and was never
terminated from her position. The complaint further alleged
that Ms. Graham was discriminatory in her treatment of DHS
clients based on other programs they received, such as
Section 8. Id.
April 2012 Complaint, October 2012 Letter, and CHRO/EEOC
April of 2012, Ms. Bento and Ms. Dubiel submitted a final
written complaint to the City detailing similar allegations
and describing both “financial impropriety” on
the part of Ms. Graham and a “toxic environment”
under her leadership. Apr. 2012 Compl., Def. Ex. W, ECF No.
85-12. This final complaint led to a meeting with the
City's attorney, Debra Kelly, as well as with the
City's Personnel Director Mr. O'Connell. L.R.
56(a)(1) ¶¶ 54-55.
this meeting, Plaintiffs' counsel submitted a letter to
current Mayor Benjamin Blake on October 1, 2012 referencing
all five of these complaints and generally asserting that
Bento and Dubiel were subjected to “harassment”
for complaining about Ms. Graham's conduct. Pl. Letter,
Def. Ex. Z, ECF No. 85-15. The letter also described their
intention to initiate legal proceedings if no action was
taken by the City. Id. The City subsequently hired
counsel and initiated an investigation into their
allegations, resulting in a detailed report addressing each
of the accusations against Ms. Graham. Investigative Report,
Def. Ex. Q, ECF No. 85-6.
with the City's response, Ms. Bento and Ms. Dubiel filed
charges with the Connecticut Commission on Human Rights and
Opportunities (“CHRO”) and the Equal Employment
Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) in December 2012
asserting CFEPA and Title VII claims. CHRO Complaints, Def.
Ex. PPP, ECF No. 88-7. Ms. Bento also filed a separate
complaint with the CHRO and EEOC in July 2013 under the ADA,
as well as an additional complaint in August 2014 after the
commencement of this lawsuit. Id.
Allegedly Retaliatory Acts
Bento and Ms. Dubiel both allege that in the wake of the five
written complaints, the October 2012 letter and the
initiation of the investigation against Ms. Graham, Ms.
Graham took various retaliatory actions against them which
the City failed to prevent. Second Am. Compl. ¶¶
31-49. They both admit that they were never terminated from
their respective positions, they were never formally demoted,
and their pay was never reduced; however, they claim that Ms.
Graham took retaliatory actions against them that negatively
impacted their employment with the City and ultimately
required them to take medical leave and eventually resign
from their positions. Id. at ¶¶ 44, 54-55,
Alleged Employer Actions as to Ms. Dubiel
Dubiel alleges that Defendants took several actions against
her in retaliation for her various complaints. Specifically,
Ms. Dubiel alleges that, after receiving the October 2012
letter from her and Ms. Bento's attorney describing the
various complaints in which Ms. Dubiel was involved, Ms.
Graham increased her monitoring of Ms. Dubiel's work,
“demanded that Ms. Dubiel copy her on external
communications, ” and removed Ms. Dubiel from
participation in various community programs such as the
“Family Fun Night” and the “Thanks for
Giving” program. L.R. 56(a)(2) ¶¶ 162-155.
Ms. Dubiel also claims that the City requested excessive
medical documentation when she took multiple absences from
work in October 2013. L.R. 56(a)(2) ¶¶ 184-185. Ms.
Dubiel never returned to work, and she formally resigned from
her position in January of 2014. L.R. 56(a)(1) ¶ 97.
Alleged Employer Actions as to Ms. Bento
Bento also alleges that a variety of retaliatory actions were
taken against her. After Ms. Graham was notified about
Plaintiffs' complaints, Ms. Graham began including a
third-party scrivener at all in-person meetings between
herself and Ms. Bento. L.R. 56(a)(1) ¶ 57. According to
Ms. Bento, this third party was a “subordinate
employee” who was “loyal” to Ms. Graham and
hostile to Ms. Bento. Second Am. Compl. ¶¶ 28, 31.
Ms. Bento alleges that this employee would meet with Ms.
Graham before and after ...