Country Club Denies Discrimination in Firing of Longtime Server


The Country Club of New Canaan last week denied claims that it had discriminated against a server who’d worked there for 30-plus years when it fired him last April.

According to a lawsuit filed Feb. 28 in state Superior Court, the Country Club “discriminated against” Gerardo Ortiz “on account of his age,” subjecting him to “a pervasive and continuing course of discriminatory comments and conduct which had the purpose or effect of substantially interfering with Plaintiff’s work performance and/or the creation of an intimidating, hostile or offensive work environment.”

In an answer filed last Thursday, the Country Club denied that Ortiz had been an “exemplary employee,” that he was treated differently from younger counterparts on staff, that his hours were cut due to his age and that derogatory ageist comments were directed at him.

The answer, filed on behalf of the Country Club by attorneys David Jimenez and Tristana Spence of Hartford-based Jackson Lewis P.C., also denies that due to the club’s “unlawful conduct,” Ortiz “sustained lost wages and benefits of employment, has been deprived of the benefits of gainful employment into the future, has sustained substantial emotional distress, and has incurred or will incur attorneys’ fees and costs.”

The lawsuit also asserts that Ortiz’s minor son “has a congenital heart defect” and in early-2022, Ortiz took an approximately 12-week leave “to attend necessary medical appointments and otherwise ensure that his son was cared for in connection with his heart condition.” The Country Club management “was aware of Plaintiff’s son’s heart condition and Plaintiff’s concomitant, occasional need to leave on an emergent basis for reasons associated with that condition,” the complaint said. The new assistant manager, Ben, “candidly conveyed to Plaintiff that he expected Plaintiff not to miss work, despite his knowledge of Plaintiff’s need to occasionally leave or miss work due to his son’s medical condition,” according to the suit. 

The Country Club in its answer “admits that in early 2022, Plaintiff requested medical leave pursuant to the Family and Medical Leave Act.”

Yet the club also “lacks knowledge sufficient to admit or deny the basis for such leave.” The club also “admits that Plaintiff requested and approved for intermittent medical leave” but “lacks knowledge sufficient to admit or deny” that Ortiz sometimes needed to leave work as a result. Identifying the manager in question as Ben Barragan, the Club admits that the manager required Ortiz to comply with its attendance policy, yet denies that Barragan knew Ortiz’s son’s condition would compel the server to miss work.

Ortiz “failed to state a cause of action” for relief and “[e]ven if Plaintiff suffered damages legally attributable to any action by Defendant, which he did not, Plaintiff’s claims for damages are barred or reduced because, upon information and belief, he has failed to mitigate his alleged damages, including by using reasonable diligence to seek and obtain comparable employment elsewhere,” the Country Club said in its answer.

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