Morse v. Pratt & Whitney
RULING granting in part and denying in part 37 Motion for Summary Judgment. Signed by Judge Janet C. Hall on 1/23/2013. (Attachments: # 1 Supplement, # 2 Supplement) (Lewis, D)
arduous duties and less time performing those that are easier or more agreeable").
Viewing the evidence in a light favorable to Morse, the court finds a genuine issue of
material fact as to whether the change of duties -those that differentiate the Grade 40
and L5 employees-substantially diminished Morse's material employment
responsibilities, thereby constituting an adverse employment action .
As to the third prong of Morse's prima facie case, a plaintiff can show a causal
connection between her protected activity and the alleged retaliatory actions by
demonstrating that the actions occurred soon after the protected activity. See Reed v.
A.W. Lawrence & Co.! 95 F.3d 1170, 1178 (2d Cir.1996). In order to prove a causal
connection in this manner, the temporal proximity must be "very close." See Clark
County Sch. Dist. v. Breeden, 532 U.S. 268, 273-74, 121 S.Ct. 1508, 149 L.Ed.2d 509
(2001) (citing cases holding that gaps between protected activity and adverse
employment action as short as three or four months are insufficiently close to prove
causation). According to Morse, Mr. Muldoon emailed her on June 5, 2008, regarding
her limited responsibilities. See PI. Mem. in Opp. Mot. for Summ. J., Ex. 5. This email
exchange took place one month after Morse clarified her internal complaint, and only a
day after Morse met with Mr. Muldoon and the Director of Human Resources, Cynthia
Howard, regarding her complaint. See L.R. 56(a)(2) 1f 11, 15; Def.'s Mem. in Supp. Mot.
for Summ. J. at 3 n.3. The short timeframe from both the May filing of the complaint
and the follow-up meeting is such that a reasonable jury could infer retaliation. See
Treglia, 313 F.3d at 720 (finding temporal proximity when the plaintiff engaged in
continued protected activity such as preparing a witness list to corroborate charges of
discrimination). Furthermore, the 2007 trade show that Morse attended was held in
September. See PI. Oep. at 112. Making all inferences in favor of Morse and,
assuming the 2008 trade show took place sometime in or around September, a
reasonable jury could find that there is a small enough window between Morse's refusal
to withdraw her July 18, 2008, CHRO complaint, and Mr. Bianchi's decision to send Ms.
Hiller in Morse's place two months later so as to raise an inference of retaliation.
The court next considers Morse's additional claim that she was denied future
continued employment from home as a result of her refusal to withdraw her CHRO
complaint. According to Morse, she submitted her complaint to the CHRO on July 17,
2008. PI. Aff. at 1f 20. Morse claims that in response, Mr. Bianchi "demanded she
withdraw the Complaint" and, when she refused, he "withdrew the request" for her to
work from home. 7 L.R. 56(a)(2) at p. 11. She asserts that sometime in the spring of
2009, Mr. Lemire reassured her that she could in fact work from home.
Morse Aff. at 1f 26. However, after she left Pratt, allegedly to work from home, on May
29, 2009, L.R. 56(a)(2) at 1f 1, Pratt never paid her for her services.
Taking Morse's version of events as true, she has introduced evidence which
would allow a reasonable jury to find that she suffered an adverse employment action,
as the refusal to allow Morse to continue working at home may constitute a "material
change in the terms and conditions of her employment," particularly given Morse's claim
that she wanted to work from home to care for her ill husband. See id. at p. 11; see
7 At oral argument, Pratt argued that Morse's Affidavit, stating that Mr. Bianchi requested that she
withdraw her complaint in July 2008, is contradictory to Morse's deposition testimony and should,
therefore, not be considered by the court. In Morse's deposition, she responded that she believed that
she and Mr. Bianchi, "were not talking to each other or communicating" from January 2008 until May
2009. The court does not believe that this statement is necessarily contradictory to Morse's assertions in
her Affidavit. See Hayes, 84 F.3d at 620 (considering testimony that does not "directly contradict" a prior
statement). Although the two may not have been "talking to each other," that does not mean that no
words were spoken by one of them during that almost year and a half period.
also Burlington Northern, 548 U.S. at 69 (stating that "a schedule change in an
employee's work schedule may make little difference to many workers, but may matter
enormously to a young mother with school-age children").
Furthermore, a reasonable jury could find temporal proximity sufficient to infer
that the refusal was due to Morse's initiation of her CHRO complaint. Taking Morse's
version of events as true, there is a "very close" timeframe between the filing of Morse's
CHRO complaint and Mr. Bianchi's withdrawal of the request that Morse be allowed to
work from home in Tennessee upon her husband's retirement. L.R. 56(a)(2) at ~18;
see also Clark County, 532 U.S. at 273 ("The cases that accept mere temporal
proximity between an employer's knowledge of protected activity and an adverse
employment action as sufficient evidence of causality to establish a prima facie case
uniformly hold that the temporal proximity must be 'very close,'" with as little as three to
four months considered too long.) Although Mr. Lemire supposedly indicated he would
allow Morse to work from home, his later actions, as alleged by Morse, did nothing to
override Mr. Bianchi's decision to withdraw the request for Morse to telecommute. Even
though Morse was ultimately prevented from working from home in May 2009, 11
months after she submitted her CHRO complaint, a court may overlook a longer gap in
time between protected conduct and an adverse employment action where "the pattern
of retaliatory conduct begins soon after the filing of the [ ] complaint and only culminates
later in actual discharge." Marx v. Schnuck Markets, Inc., 76 F.3d 324, 329 (10th
Cir.1996) (Fair Labor Act retaliation claim) (citing Jackson v. RKO Bottlers of Toledo,
Inc., 743 F.2d 370,377 n. 4 (6th Cir.1984) (Title VII case)). Making all inferences in
Morse's favor, a reasonable jury could find that Mr. Bianchi prevented Morse from
working from home in retaliation for submitting and refusing to withdraw her CHRO
complaint and that Mr. Lemire abided by that decision.
Since Morse has established a prima facie case, the burden shifts to Pratt to
offer a non-discriminatory reason for the change in Morse's duties and the refusal to
allow her to work from home. See e.g., Texas Dept. of-Community Affairs v. Burdine,
450 U.S. 249, 254 (1981). As to the former, Pratt claims that Mr. Muldoon merely
clarified Morse's responsibilities and eliminated the duties that she was performing that
were not under her purview. See Defs.' Reply at 5. As for Pratt's refusal to allow Morse
to work from home, Pratt suggests that Morse was not allowed to work from home
because she submitted a letter of resignation and, therefore, ended her employment
with Pratt. See lsL at 6.
The burden then shifts back to Morse "to demonstrate that the proferred reason
was not the true reason for the employment decision." Burdine, 450 U.S. at 256. Morse
has presented evidence from which a fact-finder could conclude that these reasons
were pretexts to cover unlawful retaliation. There is a material issue of fact as to
whether Mr. Muldoon, along with Mr. Bianchi, assigned Morse the tasks that he
ultimately informed her in his June 5, 2008, email were not under her purview. L.R.
56(a)(2) at p. 5. Therefore, a reasonable jury could find that Mr. Muldoon eliminated,
rather than clarified, Morse's duties. In addition, Morse has introduced evidence that
she did not resign from Pratt, but rather thought she was continuing her employment
from home in a different capacity. See id. at 11. As Pratt has not introduced Morse's
letter of resignation into the record, there is a material issue of fact as to (1) what
understanding Morse had with Pratt, and in particular, Mr. Lemire, and (2) when Morse
submitted the letter of resignation-in May 2009, before she left to work from home, or
after Pratt stopped paying her for her work in Tennessee. If Mr. Lemire told Morse that
she could work from home, but instead abided by Mr. Bianchi's decision to withdraw the
request for Morse to work from home, a reasonable jury could find that Pratt retaliated
against Morse for refusing to withdraw her CHRO complaint. Therefore, Pratt's Motion
for Summary Judgment as to Morse's retaliation claim is denied.
C. Gender Discrimination and Disparate Pay in Violation of Connecticut Law
In addition to her Title VII claims, Morse alleges discrimination in compensation
on the basis of sex, in violation of the Connecticut Equal Pay Act, and gender
discrimination, in violation of section 46a-58 of the Connecticut General Statutes.
Claims brought pursuant to the Connecticut Equal Pay Act are analyzed under
the same standard as the Federal Equal Pay Act, 29 U.S.C. § 206(d). See Grudier v.
Hendel's, Inc., 2008 WL 1924971, at *1 (D. Conn. 2008) (unpublished opinion)
(articulating and considering the same showing for both the Federal and Connecticut
Equal Pay Acts). Therefore, because the court denied Pratt's Motion for Summary
Judgment on Morse's Title VII unequal pay and retaliation claims, the court similarly
denies Pratt's Motion for Summary Judgment on Morse's claim pursuant to the
Connecticut Equal Pay Act. 8 See Tomka, 66 F.3d at 1312.
As for Morse's claim pursuant to section 46a-58 of the Connecticut General
6 Pratt argues that Morse cannot recover based on her claim that she had been subject to unfair
pay "for years," because section 46a-82 of the Connecticut General Statutes requires complaints to be
filed within 180 days of the alleged act of discrimination. Pratt confirmed at oral argument that it is only
raising its statute of limitations defense in relation to Morse's claim of gender discrimination for
underpayment pursuant to section 46a-58 of the Connecticut General Statutes . Pratt raises no similar
statute of limitations defense pursuant to Morse's claims under the Connecticut Equal Pay Act.
Furthermore, under the Connecticut Equal Pay Act, a plaintiff has two years to bring suit, or three years if
the violation was intentional or committed with reckless indifference. Conn. Gen. Stat. § 31-76.
Statutes, the Connecticut Supreme Court held in Commission on Human Rights and
Opportunities v, Truelove and Maclean, Inc .. 238 Conn. 337, 346 (1996), that section
46a-58(a) does not encompass claims of discriminatory employment practices that fall
within the purview of section 46a-60. See Hill v. Pinkerton Sec. & Investigation
Services, Inc., 977 F.Supp. 148, 154 (D. Conn. 1997) (granting summary judgment
because "the more specific, narrowly tailored cause of action embodied in section 46a60 supersedes the general cause of action in section 46a-58(a) ... [and therefore]
plaintiff has failed to state a cause of action"). Therefore, to the extent that Morse
brings her claim of gender discrimination for failure to promote or underpayment
pursuant to section 46a-58, Pratt's Motion for Summary Judgment is granted.
For the reasons discussed above, Pratt's Motion for Summary Judgment (Doc.
No. 37) is DENIED as to Morse's Title VII claims for unequal pay for equal work and
retaliation as well as her claim pursuant to the Connecticut Equal Pay Act, Conn. Gen.
Stat. § 31-75. Pratt's Motion for Summary Judgment is GRANTED as to Morse's Title
VII claim for failure to promote as well as her claims pursuant to section 46a-58 of the
Connecticut General Statutes.
Dated at New Haven,
Connecti c u~i s
23rd day of January, f 013 .
/s/Janet C. Hall
~ anet C. Hall
United States District Judge
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