United States District Court, D. Connecticut
RULING ON DEFENDANTS' MOTION TO DISMISS
A. Bolden United States District Judge
Layla Shakerdge (“Plaintiff”) filed this lawsuit
alleging that her former employer, Tradition Financial
Services, Inc. and TFS Energy, LLC (together,
“TFS” or “Defendants”), discriminated
against her on the basis of her gender and retaliated against
her for filing a civil rights complaint. After Shakerdge
amended her complaint, TFS moved to dismiss counts three and
four -retaliation claims under Title VII and state law -and
her demand for a jury trial. For the reasons described below,
the Motion to Dismiss will be DENIED with respect to Counts 3
and 4. The portion of the motion addressing the jury demand
will also be DENIED without prejudice to renewal at a later
stage of this case.
Factual and Procedural Background
signed a three-year contract to work as an energy commodities
broker for TFS in December 2010. Amend. Compl., ECF No. 29 at
¶ 15-18. She began work in January 2011, joining what
she describes as a “large, open trading room” of
approximately thirty-five other brokers, all of whom were
men. Id. She worked at the “West and
Midcontinent basis desk” and focused on natural gas
transactions. Id. at ¶ 20. TFS had several
desks, handling a variety of brokerage deals. Id. at
¶ 20-21. Mike Richard supervised Ms. Shakerdge and Keith
Kelly, the managing director, supervised Mr. Richard.
Id. at ¶ 22-23.
alleges that, soon after joining the company, she
“encountered the crassness and bias that pervaded the
trading room” and that “she overheard sexist and
racist comments.” Id. at ¶ 27-28. The
brokers “often objectified and degraded women:”
other employees had coded language for whether an unfamiliar
woman entering the floor was attractive, and several brokers
would view naked or semi-naked women, as well as pornography,
on their computer screens. Id. at ¶ 30, 32-38.
She also alleges other brokers shouted racial slurs and
sexist language about clients or other TFS employees.
Id. at ¶ 31-38. Shakerdge alleges that Alan
Kurzer, CEO of TFS, and other managers were well aware of the
way employees spoke on the trading floor and
“contributed to the degrading environment.”
Id. at ¶ 44.
also alleges that she was “often on the receiving end
of misogyny and physical harassment from her supervisors.
Id. at ¶ 49. This allegedly included when:
• The Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the company, Alan
Kurzer, attempted to whip her with a riding crop Shakerdge
had brought to the office to use for horseback riding,
id. at ¶50;
• The Chief Operations Officer (COO) Larry Rosenshein
said he had thought she was a “stuck-up bitch, ”
id. at ¶ 51;
• Keith Kelly, her immediate supervisor, hit her on the
buttocks with a cardboard box, id. at ¶ 52; and
• Frank Picciarelli, a fellow broker on the same desk as
Shakerdge, asked if she had performed oral sex on a friend,
id. at ¶ 55.
claims she repeatedly complained to her supervisors and other
company officials about the treatment.
her employment, Shakerdge alleges that other traders refused
to work with her. On one occasion, she claims two brokers -
Donny Tencellent and Picciarelli - did not invite her to a
golf outing with clients they shared with her because they
said it was a “guy thing” where “women
d[idn't] belong.” Id. at ¶ 77.
Brokers allegedly were unwilling to help her salvage any
floundering client relationships. Id. at ¶
78-79. Management and other brokers allegedly pressured her
to relinquish her larger accounts. Id. at ¶
December, 2013, TFS informed Ms. Shakerdge that her contract
would not be renewed, and she would be converted to an
at-will status and her base salary would be cut 37.5 percent.
Id. at ¶ 59. A few months later, TFS sent
Shakerdge a letter stating she would be moved instead to
employment on a month-to-month basis at the reduced salary
level. Id. at ¶ 65.
a meeting in 2015, Shakerdge complained to Keith Kelly about
what she thought was discriminatory treatment. Id.
at ¶ 89-90. TFS fired Shakerdge on June 4, 2015.
Id. at ¶ 96. Six months later, Shakerdge filed
a complaint with Connecticut's Commission on Human Rights
and Opportunities (“CHRO”), alleging that TFS
“had discriminated against her on the basis of her
gender, created a hostile work enforcement, and fired her in
retaliation for engaging in protected activity.”
Id. at ¶ 97.
January, 2016, Shakerdge alleges she began speaking to BGC
Financial, L.P. (“BGC”), a brokerage firm in New
York City, and this company offered a position as an energy
commodities broker. Id. at ¶ 98. She alleges
that BGC sent an employment agreement, which she brought to
her lawyers, and that she began work “while her counsel
and BGC's counsel negotiated the remaining details”
of the agreement. Id. at ¶ 100. Shakerdge went
into the office on April 11, 2016 and filled out human
resources paperwork, was given computer access and a company
e-mail address. Id. at ¶ 101-102. Additionally,
Shakerdge alleges BGC registered her as broker for the firm
with the National Futures Association, a regulatory agency.
Id. at ¶ 101-102. She then worked a full day on
April 12, 2016. Id. at ¶ 105.
on the evening of April 12, 2016, Shakerdge alleges she
received a text message from Jacqueline Bauer, a BGC Human
Resources employee, asking her not to come back to BGC, until
there was a signed employment agreement. Id. at
¶ 107. She did not attend work on April 13, and later
that afternoon BGC informed her that her offer had been
rescinded. Id. at ¶ 108. See also
Amend. Compl., Ex. D, ECF No. 29-4 at 2 (“Thank you for
your interest in BGC. Following up on your discussion with
Shawn McLoughlin, I write to confirm that BGC is no longer
pursuing your candidacy at this time.”)
alleges that she later spoke to Joshua Slansky, another
broker at BGC. Amend. Compl. at ¶ 110. She alleges he
told her that BGC “had fired her because of her legal
dispute with TFS” and that he knew this “because
he sat near Bauer's and [BGC Deputy Human Resources