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Sola v. State of Connecticut Judicial Branch

United States District Court, D. Connecticut

August 25, 2017

LUIS SOLA,
v.
STATE OF CONNECTICUT JUDICIAL BRANCH[1]

          MEMORANDUM OF DECISION ON MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

          WARREN W. EGINTON SENIOR U.S DISTRICT JUDGE.

         In this action, plaintiff Luis Sola asserts that defendant the State of Connecticut Judicial Branch discriminated against him due to his ethnicity, heritage and national origin; retaliated against him for complaining about discrimination; and subjected him to a hostile work environment in violation of Title VII and the Connecticut Fair Employment Practices Act (CFEPA).[2] Specifically, plaintiff bases his assertions of disparate treatment and retaliation on the circumstances of his suspension, an unfavorable evaluation, defendant's failure to provide him with evaluations for four years, and defendant's failure to promote him. Defendant has filed a motion for summary judgment. For the following reasons, defendant's motion for summary judgment will be granted in part and denied in part.

         BACKGROUND

         The parties have filed statements of facts along with supporting exhibits and affidavits. These materials reflect the following factual background.

         Plaintiff is a Hispanic male of Puerto Rican descent. He is employed by the State of Connecticut Judicial Branch as a Deputy Chief Judicial Marshal. From 2006 through May 6, 2013, plaintiff was assigned to the New Haven Judicial District and reported to Chief Thomas Bouley, a non-Hispanic male.

         Plaintiff asserts that Chief Bouley commented at different times that all people on the island of Puerto Rico must be related. Plaintiff does not recall Chief Bouley's exact expression or the specific circumstances in which the comment was made.

         Evaluations

         For the rating period of September 30, 2001 through October 1, 2002, plaintiff received an overall rating of satisfactory. Chief Bouley signed his evaluation. For the rating period of October 1, 2003 through September 30, 2004, plaintiff received an overall rating of satisfactory. Plaintiff asserts that this evaluation was from Chief Marshal ODonovan Murphy.

         Plaintiff did not receive another evaluation until October 2009 for the September 1, 2008 through October 1, 2009 rating period. However, in 2006, during the period in which plaintiff had not received his evaluations, plaintiff was promoted to the position of Deputy Chief.

         After the evaluations resumed, plaintiff received an overall rating of satisfactory for the rating period of September 1, 2008 through October 1, 2009, the period of September 1, 2009 through October 1, 2010, and September 1, 2011 through October 1, 2012. These evaluations were all signed by Chief Bouley.

         For the rating period of October 1, 2012 through September 30, 2013, plaintiff received a rating of unsatisfactory. This evaluation was signed by Deputy Director of the Judicial Marshals Kevin Grosse. Plaintiff also signed it under protest. The evaluation for the period of October 1, 2013 to September 30, 2014 rated plaintiff as satisfactory and was also signed by Grosse.

         Letter of Expectations

         In January 2012, plaintiff received a Letter of Expectations, indicating that he was being put on a sixty-day probation period. It stated: "It is important that you recognize the need for and undertake serious and broad reaching changes in the manner in which you perform your duties and manage the office of Deputy Chief Judicial Marshal. Temporary, sporadic or inconsistent improvement will not be accepted. Fundamental and serious changes are required." The letter listed plaintiff's duties, including being responsible for the atmosphere of all personnel working under his direction; establishing cooperation between all persons under his direction and avoiding conflict and negativism; not engaging in rancor, hostility or harassment; performing his job duties in an atmosphere of congeniality; and conforming to the expectations of the Judicial Branch and the Judicial Marshal Services. The letter required plaintiff to ensure harmonious working relations between himself and the supervisory staff and not to address judicial branch staff in a loud, aggressive demeanor.

         Applications for Promotion

         Plaintiff applied for promotions to a Chief position in Waterbury on August 13, 2012, and in Danbury on December 19, 2013. He was not selected for either of the positions for which he applied.

         Administrative Leave and Suspension

         On April 7, 2013, plaintiff was arrested after sending threatening text messages to his son and his son's girlfriend. Plaintiff sent his son the following text message: "The next time either of you two fat fucks take Michael to your house without my knowledge, I swear, I promise, I will drive up you house and cave the both of your heads in! That's a promise!!!"

         His son wrote back: "listen you little dicked fuck face. That motor cycle accident should have killed your good for nothing worthless fucking life. Come near my home I fucking dare you."

         Plaintiff responded: "Don't call, come around, disappear. You wanted it that way, now keep it that way!! State the fuck away from all of us!! I don't want my sons around that ugly fucken animal you fucken sleep with around my son!!" Plaintiff also wrote: "I'll see you in a little while, you can tell it to my face."

         His son replied: "Just do the world a favor and drop dead." Plaintiff sent a text message back stating: "I will, and I'm taken both of you with me."

         After plaintiff reported his arrest to defendant, he was placed on administrative leave on April 9, 2013. Defendant's administrative leave policy provides: "Employees with criminal charges pending against them may be placed on administrative leave if the employee's presence at work could be harmful to the welfare, health or safety of the employee, members of the public, or co-workers, or if the pendency of criminal charges could compromise the effectiveness of the employee or the efficient functioning of the Branch."

         Defendant maintains that at the April 11, 2013, investigatory meeting, plaintiff failed to cooperate with the investigation and changed his story numerous times about the content of the text messages that he had sent to his son. He indicated that he had texted that he was going to split his son's "noggin;" later said that he had texted that he was going to split his son's "head;" and then expressed that he had texted that he was going to bust his son's head. Plaintiff claimed to have deleted the text messages.

         On January 30, 2013, plaintiff had a conversation with Chief Bouley, in which according to plaintiffs deposition testimony, plaintiff was "upset with him" and was "talking louder than usual." According to plaintiff, "sometimes when I'm talking to somebody, they think that I'm yelling and I'm just speaking loud because I can't hear too well ...."

         On April 23, 2013, an individual who had a traffic ticket presented plaintiff's business card at a courthouse. Defendant maintains that the individual indicated that plaintiff had told him to present the card and that the marshal would then take care of him. Defendant asserts that it appeared as if plaintiff had attempted to help the individual through his position.[3]

         By letter dated May 22, 2013, the plaintiff was notified that there would be a predisciplinary meeting on May 29, 2013. The letter stated that plaintiff had engaged in "conduct unbecoming of a judicial Branch Manager, " and various violations of Judicial Branch policies. It explained: "These violations stem from your behavior in the workplace on January 30, 2013 [concerning a loud interaction with Chief Bouley], your off-duty conduct on April 7, 2013 [related to the arrest], your failure to cooperate fully and truthfully in the investigation your off-duty conduct on April 7, 2013, the ...


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