Tomick v. United Parcel Service, Inc.
Connecticut General Statutes §31-51x prohibits an employer from requiring an employee to submit to a urinalysis drug test without reasonable suspicion. The following summary skims the listed facts. Michael Tomick reinjured his back while working for the United Parcel Service. He returned to work in significant pain and sought a helper. Business manager Kevin Trudelle ordered Tomick to submit to a fitness for duty and substance abuse test. Tomick refused. The situation escalated with Trudelle firing Tomick and Tomick stating, "I should have kicked your a-- for what you said to my wife earlier today." A supervisor intervened and took Tomick to the clinic. The examining physician found no reason to administer a urinalysis drug test. She prescribed pain medication and released Tomick back to work on light duty status. A decision was made to terminate Tomick's employment. The next day, Trudell again ordered Tomick to submit to testing. When Tomick acquiesced, he was terminated for workplace violence for the prior day's statement to Trudelle. Tomick filed this action against UPS and Trudelle. A jury returned a verdict for the plaintiff awarding $250,000 for negligent infliction of emotional distress against UPS, $50,000 for negligent infliction of emotional distress against Trudelle, $100,000 for a violation of C.G.S. §31-51x and $100,000 for disability discrimination. The trial court reversed the jury's punitive damages award and awarded attorneys' fees, limited back pay and Tomick's contingent reinstatement. The defendants appealed raising multiple claims. The plaintiff cross-appealed. The Appellate Court affirmed and reversed the judgment in part. The defendants unsuccessfully claimed, inter alia, that the verdict should have been set aside on the negligent infliction of emotional distress claims and the count alleging a cause of action under C.G.S. §31-51x. Under the circumstances, a cause of action lies under C.G.S. §31-51x. However, the trial court erred in applying the "termination process" standard applicable to claims of negligent infliction of emotional distress to the disability discrimination claim under C.G.S. §46a-60. The matter was remanded for a determination of the adverse employment decision date and whether the plaintiff then met the qualifications of the job. The court also erred in awarding attorneys' fees pursuant to a contingency fee agreement for a common law claim of negligent infliction of emotional distress against UPS. On cross-appeal, the plaintiff unsuccessfully claimed error in the award of attorneys' fees pursuant to the contingency fee agreement, seeking a modified lodestar approach.