Foley v. City of Hartford
Allegations that supervisors and co-workers use the name of a cartoon character who is associated with homosexuality to refer to a worker can be sufficient to allege sexual harassment and discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or the perception of sexual orientation. Allegedly, the plaintiff police officer, Brian Foley, works for the Hartford police department, and Chief of Police Daryl Roberts referred to the plaintiff as “Sponge Bob,” a cartoon character associated with homosexuality. Allegedly, Roberts also observed that the plaintiff’s hair “made [Roberts] wonder about [the plaintiff]” and said, “It makes you look like a homo.” The plaintiff showed Roberts his wedding ring, and Roberts allegedly answered, “I don’t know if you’re married to a man or a woman.” Allegedly, other supervisors and workers heard Roberts call the plaintiff “Sponge Bob,” and they began to follow his lead and called the plaintiff “Sergeant Sponge Bob.” The plaintiff allegedly wrote to the then mayor of the City of Hartford, Eddy Perez, and complained about sexual harassment. The plaintiff sued the City of Hartford and alleged sexual harassment and discrimination, on the basis of sexual orientation or the perception of sexual orientation; hostile-work environment; and retaliation, in violation of the Connecticut Fair Employment Practices Act, Connecticut General Statutes §§46a-60(a)(4) and (a)(8). The defendants moved for summary judgment. The court found that there were genuine issues of material fact with respect to whether the plaintiff was subjected to a hostile-work environment based on his sexual orientation or perceived sexual orientation and whether the alleged sexual harassment can be attributed to the City of Hartford. The court denied the motion for summary judgment.