A former clinical coordinator at a behavioral health services agency has sued the agency claiming he was fired because of his race.
A lawsuit e-filed Monday in the U.S. District Court in Hartford claims Shelton-based Recovery Network of Programs Inc. wrongfully fired Kevin Coleman, who is black, in April 2017 after 15 months on the job. Coleman worked in the detoxification unit at the company’s Bridgeport offices.
According to the federal lawsuit, Coleman, a Manchester resident who had no prior write-ups, had complained to Jennifer Kowalski, the company’s chief executive officer and director of clinical services, about a white subordinate’s alleged poor behavior and attitude toward clients. The lawsuit alleges that, in retaliation, the subordinate, who is identified only as Denise, complained to Kowalski and made up false allegations against Coleman.
The lawsuit does not detail what those alleged false allegations were, but says the company immediately sided with Denise and suspended Coleman, along with three other black employees. The lawsuit also does not delve into why the three black employees were suspended and Coleman’s Woodbridge-based attorney, solo practitioner Eugene Axelrod, did not respond to a request for comment Wednesday.
The lawsuit, which cites violations of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Connecticut Fair Employment Practices Act, also claims Coleman was falsely accused of raising his voice to a co-worker in front of clients. The lawsuit says Coleman was fired soon after that incident. The lawsuit says the top brass at Recovery Networks are all white.
The seven-count complaint cites violation of Title VII’s provisions against discrimination and retaliation based on race, and creating a hostile work environment based on race discrimination; violation of the Connecticut General Statute; race discrimination; hostile work environment; and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
The lawsuit says Recovery Networks “should have known of the conduct of its managers and employees and refused to take any steps to address, stop or prevent such conduct.”
Recovery Networks is a private nonprofit behavioral health services agency founded in 1972. According to its website, its mission is to “restore hope, health and well-being for individuals and families in a recovery environment that embraces compassion, dignity and respect.” The website also says the agency has 18 specialty programs providing individualized care to clients battling addiction, mental illness and homelessness.
The lawsuit seeks punitive damages, attorney fees and prejudgment interest.
As of Wednesday morning, Recovery Network had not assigned an attorney to the matter. The company referred all comments to Kowalski, who did not respond to a request for comment Wednesday.
Judge Vanessa Bryant will hear the case.