Hammond v. City of Bridgeport
A claim of employment discrimination brought pursuant to C.G.S. §31-290a is evaluated under the burden shifting test from the 1990 Connecticut Supreme Court case of Ford v. Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Connecticut, Inc. Mark Hammond injured his shoulder while working in the city of Bridgeport sanitation division of the public works department in Dec. 2007. He was temporarily totally disabled as of Feb. 28, 2008, the date of his first surgery. The city sent Hammond a letter essentially informing him that he would be deemed to have resigned effective March 6, 2009 for exceeding the 12 month leave limitation in the collective bargaining agreement. Hammond was granted a six month extension and terminated on June 15, 2009. Hammond filed a complaint against the city and its insurer, Berkely Administrators of Connecticut, Inc. Following a hearing, the workers' compensation commissioner found that the city had discriminated against Hammond in violation of C.G.S. §31-290a and ordered Hammond's reinstatement with back wages, certain benefits and attorneys' fees. The commissioner granted, in part, the defendants' motion to correct and denied the defendants' motion to open the award and for a new trial. The defendants appealed raising multiple claims. The Appellate Court affirmed the decision. The commissioner's finding that the city discriminated against the plaintiff was not clearly erroneous. For the Ford analysis, the defendants challenged the commissioner's conclusion of a causal connection between the plaintiff's exercise of his right to workers' compensation benefits and his termination by the city. However, the evidence supported the finding of a causal connection. The plaintiff testified that his supervisor told him that the plaintiff was faking his injury and following his injury and before surgery, his duties included shoveling sand. The plaintiff testified that he "was not going to refuse any kind of work because they were looking to get rid of [him]." The commissioner expressly found the plaintiff credible and persuasive. It was not unreasonable to infer a causal connection from the facts including that the city calculated the 12 month leave period from the date of injury instead of the date the plaintiff actually stopped working and attempted to apply the six month extension policy over the next six weeks rather than six months.