United States District Court, D. Connecticut
RULING ON MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT
Jeffrey Alker Meyer United States District Judge
Carla DeAngelis worked for the City of Bridgeport as a
“telecommunicator” to answer emergency phone
calls. She has filed this lawsuit against the City and three
of her supervisors at the emergency call center alleging
claims for discrimination and retaliation relating to her
gender and sexual orientation. She also alleges a wide range
of other federal and state law claims based on essentially
the same facts. Defendants have now moved for summary
judgment. For the reasons stated below, I will grant
defendants' motion as to most of plaintiff's claims,
but deny it with respect to her claims of gender
discrimination, retaliation, and both intentional and
negligent infliction of emotional distress.
following facts are either not disputed or, where disputed,
are presented in the light most favorable to plaintiff as the
non-moving party. Between February 2012 and December 2013,
Plaintiff worked for defendant City of Bridgeport as a
telecommunicator at the City's Public Safety and
Communications Center (the “Center”). Plaintiff
has filed this lawsuit against the City as well as against
individual defendants including Dorie Price, who was director
of the Center, Anthony P. D'Onofrio, Jr., who was
plaintiff's supervisor, and Debra Deida, who was a
training officer at the Center.
of her work, plaintiff was required to answer emergency calls
and help respond to them, such as by asking the caller for
information and assisting in the dispatch of the City's
emergency services. Plaintiff was an employee whose peers and
supervisors characterized her as knowledgeable, positive, and
easy to work with. See, e.g., Doc. #49-7 at 6.
all parties acknowledge that an emergency call center can be
a stressful work environment, plaintiff has adduced evidence
going beyond usual workplace stress. Plaintiff and her
coworkers attested that D'Onofrio was extremely
aggressive toward women subordinates in the office, routinely
yelling at them and getting into arguments with them, and
then following them around in the office or even outside to
continue arguing. Doc. #49-4 at 40-42; Doc. #49-5 at 64-66;
Doc. #49-6 at 21. And while D'Onofrio would be
confrontational verbally with male employees, he would not
physically pursue them through the halls or outside as he did
with women. Doc. #49-5 at 64-66.
were also treated differently by the supervisors when it came
to disciplinary rules like dealing with mistakes made on
calls or the enforcement of rules surrounding break times. A
woman making an error on a call would be yelled at by a
supervisor repeatedly, while a man would be relieved and
allowed to take a break. Doc. #49-5 at 60-62. Men would also
be put on less strenuous overtime shifts. Id. at 62.
And men would be treated more leniently when it came to break
time; they would be allowed to leave frequently and be gone
for long stretches, while women would be asked who gave them
permission for the break and the exact times they began and
ended the breaks. Id. at 68-69.
who maintained a sign-out system for breaks in which
employees signed up for break time in advance on two separate
sheets, used the system “to single women out, ”
behaving volatilely toward women and not letting them go to
the bathroom, but not bothering men regarding the sign-out
requirement. Doc. #49-4 at 52. D'Onofrio was not the only
defendant whom female employees perceived as harassing them
with disciplinary write-ups; one coworker claimed that she
had experienced being harassed by Price to the point where
she didn't want to come to work. Doc. #49-5 at 97.
addition to this evidence about the working environment in
general, plaintiff points to specific incidents that occurred
between March and November 2013. In March of 2013, plaintiff
was on duty and received a call regarding a head trauma. Doc.
#49-4 at 16. D'Onofrio was supervising at that time, but
was not wearing his headset that allowed him to listen to the
calls as they were coming in. Id. at 18.
D'Onofrio believed plaintiff was mismanaging the call,
and he walked over to her and began interrupting her and
asking her why she was directing the call the way she was.
Plaintiff told him she could not talk to him at that moment
and continued handling the call. Id. at 20.
D'Onofrio yelled at plaintiff, but she ignored him to
focus on the call. Id. at 24.
weeks after the call, D'Onofrio ordered plaintiff into
the supervisor's office. Doc. #49-4 at 25. Apparently in
reference to plaintiff's tone when she responded to him
during the call, D'Onofrio said “the only time you
should answer me like that is when I am grabbing you by the
neck and shaking you.” Ibid. Plaintiff was
shaken by the comment, and she felt physically threatened by
in April, plaintiff came to believe that another employee,
Tammy Cowette, had made a mistake in how she had arranged the
schedule, and asked Cowette to show plaintiff how she had
come up with the arrangement. Doc. #49-3 at 13. Cowette
declined, and plaintiff said, under her breath, “this
is fucking ridiculous.” Ibid.; Doc. #49-4 at
67. Cursing was frequent in plaintiff's workplace. Doc.
#27-5 at 177. D'Onofrio approached the two of them, and
told plaintiff “if you think you have any right to look
at this schedule, you're ignorant.” Doc. #49-4 at
39. D'Onofrio's manner was aggressive, and he was
speaking loud enough for everyone else in the call center to
hear; Cowette told him to calm down. Ibid.
next day, plaintiff went to the cafeteria on a lunch break
after she had signed out on one of the break sheets. Doc.
#49-4 at 42-43. D'Onofrio, who monitored plaintiff's
comings and goings, followed her into the cafeteria and got
so close to plaintiff that she thought he was going to hit
her. He yelled at plaintiff, and ordered her to go out and
sign out on a second break sheet. Ibid.; Doc. #49-3
at 15. Plaintiff left the cafeteria and signed the sheet.
#49-4 at 43. She then submitted a grievance about the
incident that also discussed the incidents described in the
previous two paragraphs. Doc. #27-5 at 26-27. The grievance
described D'Onofrio as engaging in
“intimidation” and “professional bullying,
” and described his behavior as “personally
alarming” and “threatening.” Ibid.
Plaintiff was in a great deal of stress due to
D'Onofrio's treatment, and she left work for several
days due to abdominal pains. Doc. #49-3 at 15.
morning of July 26, plaintiff was informed by her union
steward that she was supposed to be at ¶ 10:00 A.M.
hearing that same day; plaintiff had not been scheduled to
work until 4:00 P.M., and she had not previously been
informed about the hearing. Doc. #49-4 at 70- 71. Defendant
Price was present at the hearing; D'Onofrio and Cowette
were not. The hearing was a disciplinary hearing regarding
plaintiff's cursing during her interaction with Cowette
regarding the work schedule. Doc. #49-3 at 16; Doc. #27-5 at
75. Plaintiff admitted that she had cursed, but said it was
not directed at Cowette. Doc. #27-5 at 85. Plaintiff also
raised D'Onofrio's aggressive behavior during the
hearing twice, but she was rebuffed. Id. at 95, 99.
Plaintiff was given a five-day suspension. Doc. #49-4 at 75.
Price hand-delivered the suspension letter to plaintiff while
she was at work, in view of her coworkers. Id. at
80. Afterward, Price laughed at plaintiff and stayed near
plaintiff for several hours, leering at and monitoring her.
Id. at 91.
31, plaintiff was notified that she was being investigated
for a claim made against her by Price. Id. at 86-87.
Price had falsely claimed that after delivering the
suspension letter to plaintiff, plaintiff had tried to
intimidate her. Doc. #27-5 at 73; Doc. #49-4 at 89. The
investigation did not result in discipline against plaintiff.
Doc. #49-4 at 90. Yet plaintiff felt threatened by
Price's false complaint, and so several days later, in
early August, plaintiff met with an investigator with the
Connecticut Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities
(CHRO) to report the treatment she had been subjected to at
September 16, D'Onofrio once again came into the break
room and screamed at plaintiff for not properly signing out.
Doc. #49-4 at 49-50. D'Onofrio had been calling plaintiff
names and following her around for months, and his aggressive
approach in the break room made plaintiff “physically
afraid.” Id. at 55. Plaintiff told
D'Onofrio that she had already signed out, and when he
continued to scream at plaintiff, she told him to “back
the fuck off.” Ibid. D'Onofrio then told
plaintiff “[h]ave it your way. We're going to do
this the hard way.” Id. at 58. Plaintiff told
D'Onofrio that she had “a stack of documents at
city hall regarding your behavior and harassment of me . . .
Leave me alone or I'm going to go over your head and
I'm going to pursue getting you fired for harassing and
chasing me.” Id. at 56.
that day, plaintiff submitted an additional grievance to her
union regarding D'Onofrio's behavior. Id. at
57; Doc. #27-5 at 209. In her grievance, she said that the
day's events were identical to complaints that she had
formally discussed with the CHRO, and that she had scheduled
a hearing with the CHRO “to pursue these matters and
protect [herself] . . . from intimidation, harassment and
discrimination.” Doc. #27-5 at 209. She did not mention
her gender or sexual orientation in the grievance.
Id. at 209-10.
days later, plaintiff met with defendant Deida. Plaintiff
asked Deida to help get D'Onofrio to leave plaintiff
alone so she could feel safe and do her job. Doc. #49-4 at
59-60. Deida asked plaintiff for information about
D'Onofrio regarding his behavior, his job performance,
and the names of others whom he had harassed. Id. at
64-65. Plaintiff answered many of her questions but did not
disclose the names of others. Ibid. Shortly
thereafter, Deida wrote up a disciplinary warning to
plaintiff regarding absences over the prior year. Doc. #49-9
at 94. Deida later asked again for similar information, but
plaintiff had been advised by her union representatives not
to pass along any written complaints to Deida, and so
plaintiff refrained from doing so. Doc. #49-3 at 19. On
October 8, Deida delivered a memorandum to plaintiff stating
that because plaintiff had not given her the requested
documentation she was closing the case. Doc. #27-5 at 124.
November 15, D'Onofrio and Deida called plaintiff in to
the supervisor's office. Believing she was going to be
disciplined, plaintiff went to get her union representative,
Rita Marcus. Doc. #49-3 at 20. D'Onofrio wanted to
discuss an incident that he claimed happened on November 9;
D'Onofrio had written up an incident description alleging
that upon hearing D'Onofrio and another employee discuss
scheduling, plaintiff stated “[t]his place is fucking
ridiculous, ” similar to the statement in April that
she had been disciplined for. Doc. #27-5 at 126.
maintains that the November 9 incident never happened. Doc.
#49-4 at 93-94. At the November 15 meeting, plaintiff asked
D'Onofrio for corroborating details, such as the time,
who any witnesses were, and why he had not talked to her when
it had occurred. D'Onofrio could supply no further
details. Id. at 95.
became upset and she asked Deida “[w]hen are we going
to put an end to this?” Id. at 100. Plaintiff
referred to the accusation against her as a “witch
hunt, ” and declared “I've had enough of
this.” Id. at 101. She then said to
D'Onofrio, “I'm going to get you. I'm going
to get you fired.” Ibid. After the meeting,
plaintiff returned to her work station and continued to work
for several hours; she was instructed to work an additional
four hours that evening, and to come in the following day
early to work extra hours before her regular shift. Doc.
#49-3 at 20. D'Onofrio was also scheduled to work the
next day's shift. Ibid.
going home that day, D'Onofrio went to the Bridgeport
Police Department and told the police that he felt threatened
by plaintiff. Doc. #27-4 at 183. He told an officer there
that he was afraid to go back to work because he was afraid
plaintiff would hurt him. Doc. #49-6 at 64. D'Onofrio
said that he had communicated his fears to Price, and she had
told him to make a police report. Ibid. The police
later spoke with Deida and Price, who both also told them
that plaintiff made them fear for their safety at work.
Id. at 78.
Bridgeport police officers went to the call center to speak
with plaintiff. Id. at 65- 66. An officer and Price
came to plaintiff on the call center floor, Doc. #49-4 at
114, and plaintiff proceeded to go into a conference room,
accompanied by her union representative, to discuss the
incident with one of the officers. Ibid. One of the
officers told plaintiff that Price had insisted on having her
arrested, but that they were not going to do that.
Id. at 116. The police issued a summons to plaintiff
for disorderly conduct. Doc. #49-6 at 84. One of the officers
said he “had to” issue the summons because Price
“wouldn't let down . . . wouldn't back
down” on her insistence that plaintiff should be
arrested. Doc. #49-4 at 116-17. Plaintiff was put on paid
administrative leave and required to hand over her badge and
locker key. Doc. #27-6 at 118.
days later, plaintiff met with labor relations officer Phil
White for an investigative interview. Doc. #49-9 at 38.
Plaintiff and White discussed the events of November 15, and
plaintiff recounted her version of events as well as prior
incidents of harassment by D'Onofrio. Id. at
40-57. White referred to plaintiff's description of past
incidents as “wild allegations.” Id. at
67. Plaintiff also reported what she said was a
“commonplace joke on the job, that . . . D'Onofrio
may come in armed some day and shoot the building up like the
Navy Yard in Washington.” Doc. #49-9 at 62-63. White
noted that this was a “very serious allegation, ”
and he asked plaintiff to provide names of others who had
said that. Plaintiff declined. Id. at 63.
also interviewed Marcus, plaintiff's union
representative, who referred to the police visit as
“intimidat[ion]” of plaintiff. Doc. #27-5 at 169.
Marcus also stated that cursing happened frequently in the
office-with “every other word” being a curse word
at times-and opined that it was “harassment” to
go after plaintiff. Id. at 177. Marcus corroborated
that plaintiff threatened D'Onofrio with legal action,
not with bodily harm. Id. at 170-71.
December 16, White held another hearing with plaintiff and
informed her that she was being charged with insubordination
for her failure to provide the names of others who had
repeated the “commonplace joke” regarding
D'Onofrio's potential for violence. Doc. #49-9 at 25.
At the hearing, plaintiff gave two names, and she said that
she had been hesitant ...