9830575, Lesli - Decision

Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities, ex rel. : CHRO No. 9830575 Willie Leslie, Complainant
City of New Haven, Department of Fire Services, Respondent

September 1, 1999


I.    Procedural History and Discussion:

This matter was initiated by a complaint dated June 1, 1998 by the above-named Complainant, Willie Leslie of 33 Henry Street, New Haven, Connecticut. It was alleged that the Respondent, whose address is c/o Corporation Counsel, 165 Church Street, New Haven, Connecticut, discriminated against him with respect to the terms and conditions of his employment on and after December 11, 1997, on account of his race, age, and condition of disability in violation of 42 U.S.C. 2000(e), 29 U.S.C. 621-634, 42 U.S.C. 12101 ct seq., and § 46a-60(a)(1) of the Connecticut General Statutes. The Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities is located at 21 Grand Street, Hartford, Connecticut.

As a result of the failure of the Respondent to answer and/or appear, the Executive Director issued an Entry of Default Order and Notice of Public Hearing on December 14, 1998, in accordance with which a Public Hearing to determine Damages was scheduled for January 4, 1999, to be held before the Honorable John F. Daly, III, the designated Hearing Officer.

The record shows that on January 27, February 18, March 19, and May 20, Hearings in Damages were scheduled and were either continued by permission of the Hearing Officer, or the Complainant and Respondent failed to appear. The undersigned was designated to replace Hearing Officer Daly on March 3, 1999, and has served as Presiding Referee since that date. As per my Order, a Status Conference was scheduled for April 13, 1999 and all parties were ordered to attend (March 3, 1999 Notice of Default Cancellation and Status Conference). At the Status Conference neither the Respondent nor Complainant appeared, although Commission Counsel did appear. It was on this date that May 20, 1999 was established as a continued Hearing in Damages date.

It should be noted that from January 14, 1999 on (Tr. pg. 4-7, Aug. 10, 1999 Public Hearing) the Office of Public Hearings was in receipt of various correspondence from Complainant, and the Respondent, claiming that settlement efforts were underway involving other administrative and judicial forums (i.e., Workers Compensation Commission, U.S. District Court), thereby using these other proceedings as grounds for not pursuing the default matter with the Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities (hereinafter the "Commission").

Specifically relevant to the August 10, 1999 Hearing in Damages (Tr. p.10) is a letter from Complainant’s Counsel dated May 14, 1999 requesting an additional (new) postponement of 90 days in order to afford the parties time to effectuate a comprehensive settlement. It was on this basis that the undersigned Referee agreed to continue the May 20, 1999 Hearing in Damages until August 10, 1999.

Subsequently, on August 5, 1999 Complainant’s Attorney wrote another letter, virtually identical to that of May 14,1999 asking for another 90-day postponement. (Tr. p.11). This request was not granted. On the morning of the Scheduled Hearing in Damages, August 10, 1999, Complainant’s attorney faxed a letter to the Office of Public Hearings acknowledging that his request for a continuance had been denied. He stated, "I am writing to inform you that neither I nor the Complainant will be attending the default hearing today in light of the fact that the complainant has agreed that the default may be lifted and that the parties have reached a settlement in this case (author’s emphasis).

The Respondent also failed to appear at the Hearing. There was no reason given for its failure to appear.

Consequently, the August 10, 1999 Hearing in Damages proceeded as scheduled, at which Philip A. Murphy, Jr., Commission Counsel, and Robert J. Brothers, Assistant Commission Counsel, appeared on behalf of the Commission.

The Commission Counsel filed a Motion to Suspend the Hearing in Damages on the day of the Hearing. This Motion was denied.

II.    Findings of Fact:
  1. The Complainant filed a complaint with the Commission on June 1, 1998, alleging acts of discrimination in his employment with the Respondent.
  2. The Respondent failed to answer said allegations.
  3. A Default was entered by the Executive Director of the Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities on December 14, 1998 pursuant to Section § 46a-83(g) of the Connecticut General Statutes and Section 46a-54-73 of the Regulations of Connecticut State Agencies.
  4. No pleading of any kind has been made by the Respondent at any time.
  5. Notices of Public Hearings to determine Damages pursuant to an Order of Default were issued for January 4, January 27, February 18, March 19, May 20, and August 10, 1999, and were properly scheduled and issued to the parties.
  6. Neither the Complainant nor the Respondent appeared at any of these Hearings.
  7. A Status Conference was ordered to be held on April 13, 1999, at which time neither the Complainant or the Respondent appeared. This Conference had not been continued.
  8. Prior to August 10, 1999 the Complainant has represented on numerous occasions that related matters (i.e., presumably factually similar) were in the process of being "settled" in U.S. District Court and the State Workers Compensation Commission, and such representations were the grounds for the numerous continuances/extensions requested.
  9. On August 10, 1999 in a letter sent via facsimile to the Office of Public Hearings the Complainant represented that the matters involved had been "settled" and an agreement to lift the default had been made.
  10. No such Settlement or agreement had been made as of August 10, 1999. (Tr. p. 14-15)
  11. No good cause was shown why the Complainant, or the Respondent, failed to appear at the Hearing in Damages held on August 10, 1999, despite being ordered to do so.
  12. No facts or evidence were presented which would show why a dispositive ruling in the instant case would adversely affect the decisions pending before the Workers Compensation Commission or the U.S. District Court.
  13. No evidence was presented showing what relief, if any, would be necessary to make the complainant whole, or what, if any, damages and/or mitigation factors existed at all.
  14. No facts or evidence were presented which would allow the undersigned to determine what, if any, relief would be necessary to eliminate the discriminatory practices alleged.
III.    Conclusions:

The Complainant and the Respondent have shown little or no respect for, or interest in, these proceedings. The burden rested on the Complainant, and the Commission, to offer evidence that would allow for an ascertainment of damages, as well as the proper relief necessary under the circumstances. Despite opportunities to do so neither have made such an offer, and no record exists which would permit any specific relief to be offered.

This Commission’s proceedings are valuable tools for the elimination of discrimination in its various forms and forums. Its function is not to serve as a placeholder while other proceedings are pursued, and certainly not in the circumstances of this case.

IV.    Order:

The Complaint is dismissed with no relief ordered.

IT IS SO ORDERED this 1st day of September, 1999, at Hartford, Connecticut.

Hon. Gordon T. Allen
Presiding Human Rights Referee

cc: Willie Leslie
Stephen Pincas, Esq.
City of New Haven, Department of Fire Service
Donna Chance Dowdie, Esq.
Thomas W. Ude, Jr., Esq.
Attorney Raymond Pech, Deputy Commission Counsel
Attorney Philip A. Murphy, Jr., Commission Counsel
Ann Galer-Pasternak, Public Hearings Administrator