Labor Attorney Is Picked By Celebrity Lawyer In UConn Sex Assault Case
New Haven attorney Nina Pirrotti has teamed up with celebrity civil rights attorney Gloria Allred as local counsel in a highly publicized gender bias federal lawsuit brought by several current and former University of Connecticut students who claim the university failed to properly investigate their sexual assault complaints.
Pirrotti, who is well-known in employment law circles, has spoken at numerous American Bar Association and Connecticut Bar Association conferences. It was through those engagements that Pirrotti caught Allred's eye.
Virginia "Ginger" Hardwick of employment firm Hardwick Collier in Doylestown, Pa., played a key role in getting Pirrotti involved in the UConn case. Hardwick is working with Allred on a separate case involving cocktail servers at Resorts Casino Hotel in Atlantic City who were fired to make room for younger women.
Hardwick said Allred asked her to recommend a Connecticut lawyer and Hardwick had just heard Pirrotti speak at an ABA conference. Hardwick said she knew that Pirrotti "was outstanding."
Pirrotti is a partner at Garrison, Levin-Epstein, Richardson, Fitzgerald & Pirrotti in New Haven. Before joining the firm in 2005, she had already devoted nearly 15 years to civil rights and public service. At the Queens County District Attorney's Office in New York City, she was appointed to the Career Criminal Major Crimes Bureau, prosecuting homicides, bank robberies, kidnappings, and pattern crimes. She's also worked as an assistant corporation counsel at New York City's Law Department.
Pirrotti said her experiences as a prosecutor and employment lawyer will both come into play during the UConn civil rights case. For example, she has prosecuted both murder and attempted-murder cases involving boyfriends killing or trying to kill their girlfriends. And as an employment lawyer, she's investigated and has tried a number of workplace sexual harassment cases. "I often find myself investigating and pursuing cases of sexual harassment," she said.
There are “compelling” similarities between workplace discrimination and the inadequate response of educators to sexual assault allegations, Pirrotti said.
“You would think they were very different but when you take away all of the external factors, it comes down to one commonality," she said. "In both cases I empower victims.”
In a criminal case, Pirrotti said she empowers victims by "giving them the tools to hold the perpetrator responsible for what they did to them."
Similarly, in the workplace, whether her client is a disabled employee, a member of a minority group or an older worker, she helps them speak up and fight against potential retaliation for discriminatory treatment. She said the key in both civil and criminal cases is "figuring out where the truth lies."