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Cheryl Coudert, fired in 2002 as a broker in Janney Montgomery Scott’s Darien and Fairfield, Conn., offices, might have had a sex or age discrimination case if she hadn’t let her legal claims wither and die. That’s the conclusion of U.S. District Judge Mark R. Kravitz. “Much of this case concerns relatively old acts of alleged discrimination, which, lamentably, Ms. Coudert should have pursued sooner than she did,” Kravitz determined. Coudert claimed disparate treatment and termination in violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, and discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. In oral arguments, her attorney, Andrew Bowman of Westport, Conn., seemed to allege a hostile workplace claim, and Kravitz asked both sides to brief that issue as well. But lawyers for the Philadelphia-based brokerage house successfully argued that the age- and sex-based claims largely fell outside the 300-day period for making a discrimination claim. Specifically, Coudert claimed she was subject to harsh treatment by her supervisor in Darien, Jack Engelskirger, from February 1995 to December 1996 and that she was “punitively” transferred to Fairfield in March 1997. There she was denied the assistance of a sales aid until March 1999 and the use of an office until November 1999. The Fairfield branch manager allegedly berated her in September 1999. Between 1998 and 2002, when she was fired, Coudert was paid a reduced commission. The brokerage house, represented by Edward G. Stretton and Marc L. Zaken of the Stamford, Conn., office of Edwards & Angell, contended that the discipline, reduced commissions and firing were all due to Coudert having the lowest production numbers in the office year after year and her inability to hit $125,000 production quotas. Coudert filed her discrimination charges with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on July 3, 2002, so the only acts that fell within the 300-day reporting period were her Jan. 11, 2002, firing and her reduced commission rates. Bowman argued the prior alleged acts should be included under the “continuing violation doctrine.” Ruling late last month, however, Kravitz invoked the 2002 U.S. Supreme Court case of National Railroad v. Morgan, which interpreted Title VII’s “unlawful employment practices.” Kravitz refused to find that the term “practice” converts related discreet acts into a single unlawful practice for the purpose of timely filing. Instead, each individual discriminatory act started a new 300-day clock ticking, Kravitz observed. At first, it looked like Coudert’s hostile workplace claim would do better than her sex and age discrimination claims. But Kravitz noted the “two workplace” legal exception. Coudert did not claim that the alleged hostility of Engelskirger in Darien in 1995 and 1996 “automatically infected Ms. Coudert’s new supervisors” at the Fairfield office in 1997 through 1999. “Because Ms. Coudert has been subject to two distinct periods of alleged harassment by two separate supervisors in two separate offices,” she cannot claim one continuing hostile work environment, Kravitz concluded.

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