Johnson v. Department of Children and Families
Article First, §20 of the Connecticut Constitution, which provides, "No person shall be denied the equal protection of the law," may not provide a private cause of action for employment discrimination. In February 2011, a client allegedly informed the plaintiff employee, Cleaven Johnson, that a co-worker at the Department of Children and Families had asked the client to write a letter, to indicate that the client did not want to work with Johnson. Gayle Hoffman and Malcolm Blue allegedly wrote a memo, claiming that Johnson failed to connect with clients. In May, the Department of Children and Families discharged Johnson. Another department employee, Christopher Burke, was discharged for alleged neglect of duty and sexual harassment. Johnson and Burke, who are African-American, sued the department, alleging discriminatory discharge and unequal treatment, in violation of the 14th Amendment, and emotional distress. The District Court found that the plaintiffs failed to adequately allege extreme and outrageous conduct, and it dismissed claims of intentional infliction of emotional distress. The court was not persuaded the plaintiffs possess a private cause of action pursuant to Article First, §20 of the Connecticut Constitution, which provides, "No person shall be denied the equal protection of the law." The Connecticut Fair Employment Practices Act provides an adequate remedy for the plaintiffs' claims of discrimination and retaliation in the workforce. The court dismissed the plaintiffs' Article First, §20 count. Johnson received two releases of jurisdiction from the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission with respect to his Title VII claims and apparently failed to explain why the first release, dated March 20, 2012, was returned to the EEOC, unclaimed. Johnson did not commence suit within 90 days of March 20. Johnson's attorney requested another release of jurisdiction, which the EEOC issued July 10. A court can permit equitable tolling of the 90-day period in exceptional circumstances, if a party is prevented from exercising his rights. Johnson was not entitled to equitable tolling, and the court dismissed his Title VII claims. Burke failed to allege that he received a release of jurisdiction from the EEOC, and the court dismissed Burke's Title VII count.