Desrosiers v. Diageo North America, Inc.
The text of Connecticut General Statutes §46a-60 is clear and unambiguous and does not cover claims of discrimination based on a perceived physical disability. Mireille Desrosiers was terminated from her position with Diageo North America, Inc. after she reported to her supervisor, Lawrence Levine, that she needed to take time off from work to undergo surgery for a tumor on her right shoulder. The stated reason for the termination was that her performance had not sufficiently improved following the imposition of a performance improvement plan. Desrosiers brought suit against Levine and Diageo North America alleging disparate treatment discrimination under C.G.S. §46a-51, discrimination based on physical disability or perceived disability in violation of C.G.S. §46a-60(a), negligent misrepresentation and promissory estoppel. The trial court granted partial summary judgment to the defendants. The plaintiff appealed contending that the court erred in several ways including by granting summary judgment on her claim alleging discrimination based on a perceived disability after determining that such a cause of action does not exist in Connecticut. The Appellate Court affirmed the judgment. The plaintiff claimed that her claim based on discrimination for a perceived disability violated C.G.S. 46a-60(a). The term physically disabled is defined under C.G.S. §46a-51(15) as any individual who "has" any chronic physical handicap, infirmity or impairment. There is no language supporting an interpretation that it includes those who may be regarded as disabled by their employers. In contrast, the legislature explicitly chose to include the phrase "regarded as" in its definition of mental disability in C.G.S. §46a-51(20). To conclude that the language of C.G.S. §46b-51(15) allows for C.G.S. §46a-60 to provide protection for those who are regarded as physically disabled by their employers would cause the phrase in C.G.S. §46a-51(20) to have no meaning. The text of C.G.S. §46a-60 was clear and unambiguous and did not cover claims of discrimination based on perceived physical disability. Summary judgment was also properly granted on negligent misrepresentation and promissory estoppel counts. Although Levine indicated that the plaintiff's performance may no longer have been in need of improvement, his statement did not alter the fact that the plaintiff was an employee at will. Reliance on the statement was not justifiable.