Commissioner of Mental Health and Addiction Services v. Saeedi
The term "any other damages" in Connecticut General Statutes §4-61dd, does not encompass equitable forms of relief, but is confined to compensating victims of whistle-blower retaliation for the economic harm they suffer. Mehdi Saeedi, a board certified internist, hired by the Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services to work as a principal physician in ambulatory care services at the Connecticut Valley Hospital, alleged adverse personnel actions were taken against him after reporting concerns about another physician's poor patient care in Aug. 2007. In Oct. 2008, Saeedi filed a complaint with the chief human rights referee alleging that the plaintiffs, the department, its former commissioner, Thomas Kirk, Jr., and various Connecticut Valley Hospital employees retaliated against him for his whistle-blowing activities in violation of C.G.S. §4-61dd. The referee found for Saeedi awarding salary and wage reimbursements and credits with $40,000 in emotional distress damages, attorneys' fees and costs of $123,765.25, plus prejudgment interest. The referee also ordered such actions as professional ethics training for the plaintiffs. The trial court dismissed the plaintiffs' administrative appeal. The plaintiffs appealed claiming, first, that the court erred in concluding that the referee properly determined that the 30 day filing period for filing whistleblower retaliation complaints was not a jurisdictional limitation. The Appellate Court affirmed and reversed the judgment, in part. The trial court properly found no error in the referee's decision finding jurisdiction to hear Saeedi's claims. The referee concluded that the continuing course of conduct doctrine tolled the filing period. The trial court adopted the referee's reasoning and found the filing period in C.G.S. §4-61dd was not jurisdictional and subject to tolling. The Appellate Court concluded that given the dearth of legislative history and textual evidence indicating any legislative intent to create a subject matter jurisdictional bar, and mindful of the remedial purpose of C.G.S. §4-61dd, the failure to comply with the 30 day filing period did not divest the referee of subject matter jurisdiction. However, the panel agreed with the plaintiffs that the referee exceeded his authority in ordering the plaintiffs to undergo ethics training. The trial court's judgment upholding the order was reversed. The term "any other damages" in C.G.S. §4-61dd, does not encompass equitable forms of relief, but is confined to compensating victims of whistle-blower retaliation for the economic harm they suffer.