Bridgeport Hosp. v. Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities, Nos. 15059

CourtSupreme Court of Connecticut
Writing for the CourtKATZ
Citation653 A.2d 782,232 Conn. 91
PartiesBRIDGEPORT HOSPITAL v. COMMISSION ON HUMAN RIGHTS AND OPPORTUNITIES et al.
Decision Date31 January 1995
Docket Number15060,Nos. 15059

Page 782

653 A.2d 782
232 Conn. 91
BRIDGEPORT HOSPITAL

v.
COMMISSION ON HUMAN RIGHTS AND OPPORTUNITIES et al.
Nos. 15059, 15060.
Supreme Court of Connecticut.
Argued Dec. 1, 1994.
Decided Jan. 31, 1995.

Page 783

[232 Conn. 92] Michael N. LaVelle, Bridgeport, for appellant in Docket No. 15059, appellee in Docket No. 15060 (plaintiff).

Philip A. Murphy, Jr., Com'n Counsel, with whom was Charles Krich, Staff Atty., for the appellee in Docket No. 15059, appellant in Docket No. 15060 (named defendant).

Jonathan L. Gould and Barbara E. Gardner, Hartford, filed a brief for the Connecticut Employment Lawyers Ass'n as amicus curiae.

Before CALLAHAN, KATZ, PALMER, FREDERICK A. FREEDMAN and MARY R. HENNESSEY, JJ.

KATZ, Associate Justice.

The issue before the court is whether General Statutes § 46a-86, 1 authorizes the award of damages[232 Conn. 93] for emotional distress and attorney's fees for a violation of General Statutes

Page 784

§ 46a-60(a)(1). 2 We conclude that it does not.

The following facts are undisputed. On October 27, 1986, the complainant, Susan Frederick, pursuant to [232 Conn. 94] General Statutes § 46a-82, 3 filed a complaint with the defendant commission on human rights and opportunities (CHRO) alleging that her former employer, the plaintiff, Bridgeport Hospital, had unlawfully terminated her employment because of her mental condition, depression, in violation of General Statutes § 46a-60(a)(1). Pursuant to General Statutes § 46a-83, 4 CHRO made [232 Conn. 95] a finding of reasonable

Page 785

cause to believe that the plaintiff had committed a discriminatory employment practice[232 Conn. 96] and, upon the failure of conciliation, certified the matter to a public hearing. A hearing was held on May 5, 1992, before hearing officer John F. Daly, who rendered a final decision in favor of Frederick. The damages awarded by the CHRO hearing officer included $5000 for "pain, humiliation and emotional damages" and an award of attorney's fees to Frederick's private counsel. 5

The plaintiff appealed CHRO's decision, challenging, inter alia, 6 the $5000 award to Frederick for emotional distress and the award to her private counsel. 7 The trial [232 Conn. 97] court, Maloney, J., sustained the appeal as to the award of attorney's fees but dismissed the appeal as to the award of damages for emotional distress. The plaintiff appealed to the Appellate Court, contesting the validity of the $5000 award for emotional distress, and CHRO appealed, challenging the validity of the trial court's determination on the issue of attorney's fees. We transferred these appeals to this court pursuant to General Statutes § 51-199(c) and Practice Book § 4023

Page 786

and conclude that § 46a-86 does not permit either of these awards for a violation of § 46a-60. Accordingly, we reverse the trial court's judgment in the plaintiff's appeal and affirm its judgment in CHRO's appeal.

Although the issues are discussed in separate briefs because they were raised in two separate appeals, whether CHRO, following a finding of a discriminatory employment practice, is authorized to award damages for emotional distress or attorney's fees depends on an examination of the same statute, which we consider in its entirety to ascertain the legislature's intent, and a discussion of overlapping policy considerations underlying the statute. CHRO has presented four primary arguments in support of its hearing officer's award of [232 Conn. 98] both damages for emotional distress and attorney's fees to Frederick. First, CHRO argues that the "affirmative action" language contained within § 46a-86(a) is sufficiently broad, by its very nature, to authorize the award of damages for emotional distress and attorney's fees. Second, CHRO argues that the judiciary should defer to the interpretation of § 46a-86 by the agency charged with its enforcement and that the twelve year history of CHRO of awarding damages for emotional distress and attorney's fees reflects sound construction of legislative intent. Third, to demonstrate the reasonableness of its decision to apply a broad interpretation of the statute, CHRO points to other state and federal employment legislation pursuant to which similar awards have been made. Finally, CHRO claims that a decision by this court that § 46a-86 does not authorize damages for emotional distress and attorney's fees will render it unconstitutional.

Although CHRO advances some important policy reasons why damages for emotional distress and attorney's fees should be awarded, our function is to ascertain what the legislature intended and to enforce that intent rather than to "substitut[e] [our] own ideas of what might be a wise provision in place of a clear expression of legislative will." Penfield v. Jarvis, 175 Conn. 463, 474-75, 399 A.2d 1280 (1978). In other words, absent express statutory authorization for the awarding of such damages, the policy arguments of CHRO are an insufficient basis upon which to award them.

We begin our discussion by focusing on the language of the statute. Samperi v. Inland Wetlands Agency, 226 Conn. 579, 590, 628 A.2d 1286 (1993) ("[i]n construing a statutory provision, we first look to its language, and if that language is plain and unambiguous, 'we need look no further' "). Section 46a-86 provides in pertinent part: "(a) If, upon all the evidence presented at the hearing conducted pursuant to section 46a-84, the [232 Conn. 99] presiding officer finds that a respondent has engaged in any discriminatory practice, the presiding officer shall state his findings of fact and shall issue and file with the commission and cause to be served on the respondent an order requiring the respondent to cease and desist from the discriminatory practice and further requiring the respondent to take such affirmative action as in the judgment of the presiding officer will effectuate the purpose of this chapter.

"(b) In addition to any other action taken hereunder, upon a finding of a discriminatory employment practice, the presiding officer may order the hiring or reinstatement of employees, with or without back pay, or restoration to membership in any respondent labor organization, provided, liability for back pay shall not accrue from a date more than two years prior to the filing or issuance of the complaint and, provided further, interim earnings, including unemployment compensation and welfare assistance or amounts which could have been earned with reasonable diligence on the part of the person to whom back pay is awarded shall be deducted from the amount of back pay to which such person is otherwise entitled. The amount of any such deduction for interim unemployment compensation or welfare assistance shall be paid by the respondent to the commission which shall transfer such amount to the appropriate state or local agency.

"(c) In addition to any other action taken hereunder, upon a finding of a discriminatory practice prohibited by section 46a-58, 46a-59, 46a-64, 46a-64c, 46a-81b, 46a-81d or 46a-81e, the presiding officer shall determine the damage suffered by the complainant, which damage shall include but not be limited to

Page 787

the expense incurred by the complainant for obtaining alternate housing or space, storage of goods and effects, moving costs and other costs actually incurred by him as [232 Conn. 100] a result of such discriminatory practice and shall allow reasonable attorney's fees and costs.

"(d) In addition to any other action taken hereunder, upon a finding of a discriminatory practice prohibited by section 46a-66 or 46a-81f, the presiding officer shall issue and file with the commission and cause to be served on the respondent an order requiring the respondent to pay the complainant the damages resulting from the discriminatory practice."

Subsection (a) is the only subsection of § 46a-86 to which CHRO cites as authority to award damages for emotional distress and attorney's fees following a finding of a discriminatory employment practice. It is the remaining language of § 46a-86, however, that is more instructive. The plaintiff argues that the general language authorizing the hearing officer to issue an "order requiring ... the respondent to take such affirmative action as in the judgment of the presiding officer will effectuate the purpose of this chapter"; General Statutes § 46a-86(a); cannot include an authorization to award compensatory damages, other than what is expressly authorized in subsection (b), or attorney's fees because of the express restriction on the availability of such awards to cases brought under the specific statutes enumerated in subsections (c) and (d). We agree.

It is a basic tenet of statutory construction that the legislature "did not intend to enact meaningless provisions." Turner v. Turner, 219 Conn. 703, 713, 595 A.2d 297 (1991). Accordingly, care must be taken to effectuate all provisions of the statute. See Pintavalle v. Valkanos, 216 Conn. 412, 418, 581 A.2d 1050 (1990) ("[a] statute should be read as a whole and interpreted so as to give effect to all of its provisions"); Hopkins v. Pac, 180 Conn. 474, 476, 429 A.2d 952 (1980) (it is a "well established principle that statutes must be construed, if possible, such that no clause, sentence or word [232 Conn. 101] shall be superfluous, void or insignificant"). If compensatory damages and attorney's fees are authorized within the "affirmative action" language of § 46a-86(a), subsections (c) and (d) are superfluous. Both expressly delineate the availability of compensatory damages. Statutes prohibiting employment discrimination are not included. "It is an axiom of statutory construction that legislative intent is to be determined by an analysis of the language actually used in the legislation." Vaillancourt v. New Britain Machine/Litton, 224 Conn. 382, 391, 618 A.2d 1340 (1993). " 'Unless there is evidence to the contrary, statutory itemization indicates that the legislature intended the...

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100 practice notes
  • State v. Breton, No. 13845
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Connecticut
    • August 22, 1995
    ...intended the list to be exclusive." (Internal quotation marks omitted.) Bridgeport Hospital v. Commission on Human Rights & Opportunities, 232 Conn. 91, 101, 653 A.2d 782 (1995). The defendant offers no explanation why the legislature would have omitted extreme emotional disturbance from th......
  • Perodeau v. Hartford, (SC 16468)
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Connecticut
    • March 26, 2002
    ...legislation...." (Citation omitted; internal quotation marks omitted.) Bridgeport Hospital v. Commission on Human Rights & Opportunities, 232 Conn. 91, 108, 653 A.2d 782 (1995). The majority of the United States Circuit Courts of Appeals that have considered the issue, including the Court o......
  • Szewczyk v. Department of Social Services, No. 17034.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Connecticut
    • September 20, 2005
    .... . . the agency is not entitled to special deference. . . . Accord Bridgeport Hospital v. Commission on Human Rights & Opportunities, [232 Conn. 91, 109, 653 A.2d 782 (1995)] ([a]s we have stated many times, the factual and discretionary determinations of administrative agencies are to be ......
  • Giaimo v. New Haven, (SC 16460)
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Connecticut
    • August 14, 2001
    ...clause, sentence or word shall be superfluous, void or insignificant). Bridgeport Hospital v. Commission on Human Rights & Opportunities, 232 Conn. 91, 100-101, 653 A.2d 782 (1995)." 257 Conn. 494 (Internal quotation marks omitted.) Willoughby v. New Haven, 254 Conn. 404, 422, 757 A.2d 1083......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
100 cases
  • State v. Breton, No. 13845
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Connecticut
    • August 22, 1995
    ...intended the list to be exclusive." (Internal quotation marks omitted.) Bridgeport Hospital v. Commission on Human Rights & Opportunities, 232 Conn. 91, 101, 653 A.2d 782 (1995). The defendant offers no explanation why the legislature would have omitted extreme emotional disturbance from th......
  • Perodeau v. Hartford, (SC 16468)
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Connecticut
    • March 26, 2002
    ...legislation...." (Citation omitted; internal quotation marks omitted.) Bridgeport Hospital v. Commission on Human Rights & Opportunities, 232 Conn. 91, 108, 653 A.2d 782 (1995). The majority of the United States Circuit Courts of Appeals that have considered the issue, including the Court o......
  • Szewczyk v. Department of Social Services, No. 17034.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Connecticut
    • September 20, 2005
    .... . . the agency is not entitled to special deference. . . . Accord Bridgeport Hospital v. Commission on Human Rights & Opportunities, [232 Conn. 91, 109, 653 A.2d 782 (1995)] ([a]s we have stated many times, the factual and discretionary determinations of administrative agencies are to be ......
  • Giaimo v. New Haven, (SC 16460)
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Connecticut
    • August 14, 2001
    ...clause, sentence or word shall be superfluous, void or insignificant). Bridgeport Hospital v. Commission on Human Rights & Opportunities, 232 Conn. 91, 100-101, 653 A.2d 782 (1995)." 257 Conn. 494 (Internal quotation marks omitted.) Willoughby v. New Haven, 254 Conn. 404, 422, 757 A.2d 1083......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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