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Rose Kallor Secures Summary Judgment Dismissals in Two Disability Discrimination Cases brought against Town of Rocky Hill and City of Torrington

Posted by Michael J. Rose | Apr 25, 2022 | 0 Comments

Rose Kallor, LLP is pleased to announce that it has secured two summary judgment dismissals in disability discrimination actions for the Town of Rocky Hill and the City of Torrington in federal and state court, respectively.

The first case, against the Town of Rocky Hill, Vasel v. Rocky Hill, et al, concerned a disability discrimination and First Amendment retaliation claim brought in the United States District Court for the District of Connecticut.  Firm Partner Robin Kallor served as lead counsel in this case.

Henry Vasel, a current firefighter with the Town, formally holding the public information officer role with commensurate rank of captain, alleged that political differences with Rocky Hill's fire chief (Vasel's 2013 and 2016 mayoral race as the Republican candidate) resulted in unfavorable working assignments. Vasel also alleged a demotion from his role as a public information officer for the fire department because and commensurate rank of captain of political disagreements. Separately, Vasel alleged that his demotion from his public information role with commensurate rank of captain was because of his disability.  He also alleged that the Town failed to accommodate his disability, under Title I (employment provisions) and Title II (services programs and activities provided by state and local governments) of the ADA should the court conclude that Mr. Vasel was not an employee under Title II of the ADA.

The court declined to rule on whether the volunteers are “employees” subject to Title I of ADA or even whether Title II applied to volunteer firefighters.  Instead, the court assumed that either of these laws applied and held that he did not establish the necessary elements of his case because he did not need an accommodation due to any disability.  Moreover, the court concluded that he was demoted, not because of his disability, but because he refused to perform the duties of his position claiming he was unable to do so due to his medical condition, but refused to provide medical documentation substantiating any need for any accommodations despite giving him more than nine months to do so.

The District Court held that Vasel's speech claims were, in large measure, time-barred under federal law, and the untimely acts did not constitute “continuing violations.”  As to his demotion, the court made the same conclusion as he did in connection with his ADA claims, i.e. that the Town had articulated legitimate, non-discriminatory reasons for their decision to demote him from his position of public information officer and commensurate rank of captain due to his refusal to perform job and refusing to provide medical documentation after claiming he was medically unable to do so.   

The second case, against the City of Torrington, Cooling v. City of Torrington, concerned a disability discrimination claim by former police officer Jason Cooling in Connecticut state court. Managing Partner Michael Rose served as lead counsel and secured the favorable summary judgment.

Cooling had frequent absenteeism.  Moreover, an internal investigation found that Cooling had used sick time in close proximity to paid time off in violation of his collective bargaining agreement. Cooling was subsequently reprimanded for this action and later informed the Town that he suffered from a disability and alleged discrimination.  To support his claim, he alleged that he was aware of a photograph involving a photograph of him in the locker room with a pinhole in his face. Finally, Cooling alleged that he had not been reasonably accommodated because the Town's proposed adjustment to his work schedule would have prevented his working with a K-9 unit. Cooling later voluntarily resigned to take a new position and alleged constructive discharge.

The Court agreed that Cooling was reprimanded due to his “clear violation” of the union agreement, not on account of his disability, and found that the isolated incidents did not give rise to a hostile work environment. The Court also agreed that Cooling had failed to demonstrate a work environment that was “so difficult or unpleasant that a reasonable person in the employee's shoes would have felt compelled to resign.”

Finally, the Court reasoned that the City of Torrington had engaged in the interactive process required under the Americans With Disabilities (ADA) Act and had acted with “good faith and offered a reasonable accommodation.”

The case against Rocky Hill is Vasel v. Garrahy and Town of Rocky Hill, No. 3:19-cv-1241 (D. Conn. 2022). The case against the City of Torrington is Cooling v. City of Torrington, No. LLI CV 196022035-S (Conn. Sup. Ct. 2022).

Any questions should be directed to counsel for the Town of Rocky Hill, Robin Kallor, and counsel for the City of Torrington, Michael J. Rose, of Rose Kallor, LLP. Attorney Kallor and Attorney Rose can be reached at 860.361.7999.

About Rose Kallor:

Rose Kallor, LLP is a labor and employment law firm with offices in Hartford, Connecticut and New York, New York. Rose Kallor concentrates its practice in the representation of public and private-sector employers, individuals, and municipalities in the New England and New York Metropolitan area. Committed to high-quality, professional representation, the attorneys at Rose Kallor stand ready to provide legal counsel on all aspects of employment and labor law. For more about Rose Kallor, visit our website at https://www.rosekallor.com/.

About the Author

Michael J. Rose

Managing Partner


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