Sturman v. Groton Board of Education
Allegations that a male, public school teacher's supervisor complained that a teacher was "too flamboyant," can be sufficient to support the teacher's claim that he was held to a higher standard than similarly situated workers, and that his contract was not renewed as a result of sex discrimination. The Groton Board of Education hired the plaintiff, Scott Sturman, in August 2008 and elected not to renew his contract in March 2010. Sturman claimed that during a department meeting another teacher said, "[Y]ou are being a bitch just like a woman," and that his supervisor allegedly complained to a social worker that Sturman was "too flamboyant." Sturman's supervisor also allegedly complained about his use of sarcasm. Sturman sued the board of education, alleging that he was held to a higher standard than similarly situated workers, because he is gay. Sturman's complaint alleged both discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and discrimination on the basis of sex. The board moved to strike the sex discrimination count. The court found that the plaintiff's complaint adequately alleged sex discrimination, based on allegations that a supervisor complained that Sturman was "too flamboyant" and commented that Sturman did not fit within traditional gender roles. The court denied the board of education's motion to strike the plaintiff's sex discrimination count. "Reading the allegations of the complaint broadly," wrote the court, "the allegations that the plaintiff was referred to as `too flamboyant,' . . . may be read as referring to the plaintiff's failure to conform with stereotypically masculine characteristics." The plaintiff also alleged conversion of items he kept in his classroom. Connecticut courts are divided on whether physical harm is required to qualify for the identifiable individual, subject to imminent harm exception to government immunity. The plaintiff failed to persuade the court to extend the exception for the plaintiff's conversion count, in connection with his claim that items kept in his classroom were converted. The court granted the motion to strike the conversion count.