Warner v. University of Connecticut Health Center
To prove a prima facie case of retaliation, a plaintiff must establish she participated in a protected activity, and participation in an internal employer investigation that is not connected to a formal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission investigation is insufficient. In 2007, the defendant hired the plaintiff, Kimberly Warner, to work as a rehabilitation therapist at York Correctional Institution. In 2009, another worker, Linda Preato, filed a complaint with the office of diversity and equity, alleging sexually harassment. When interviewed, Warner complained that a psychiatrist, Dr. Steven Lazrove, allegedly made comments about whipping women into shape like horses and teaching women to do more than work in a salon and give bikini waxes. In August, Warner's job responsibilities changed, allegedly because she ignored directions. Warner's salary, benefits, schedule and title remained the same. In September, Warner received ratings of "excellent" and "good" on a performance evaluation. Warner complained that Preato evaluated her work as "excellent" and that Dr. Lazrove was responsible for lowering ratings to "good." Warner filed a complaint with the Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities. To prove a prima facie case of retaliation, the plaintiff must establish a causal connection exists between a "protected activity" and adverse employment action. Participation in an internal employer investigation that is not connected to a formal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission investigation is insufficient to qualify as a "protected activity." The defendant employer's internal investigation ended before Warner filed a complaint. Warner's participation in the employer's internal investigation did not qualify as a "protected activity." There was no evidence that the alleged bikini wax comment constituted sexual harassment or discrimination on the basis of gender. Warner objected because she approves of the cosmetology business as a respectable industry for women. A single, offensive remark does not violate the law. There was no evidence that the alleged comment about whipping women like horses reflected discriminatory conduct toward women or violated Title VII. A reasonable jury could not find that Warner opposed an unlawful work practice or engaged in "protected activity." The court granted the defendant employer's motion for summary judgment.