Former Employee Sues Country Club for Age Discrimination 


The Country Club of New Canaan discriminated against a server that had worked there for 30-plus years when it fired him last April, according to a lawsuit recently filed in state Superior Court.

Gerardo Ortiz of Stamford had started at the Country Club in 1991 as a server and occasional bartender, according to a complaint filed Feb. 28 on his behalf by attorney Matthew D. Paradisi of Hartford-based Cicchello & Cicchiello LLP.

Though he was “an exemplary employee, as evidenced by his more than three-decade-long employment history and a general lack of disciplinary action throughout his tenure,” the complaint said, staff members at the Country Club began to discriminate against him because of his age before firing him on April 16, 2023 (a Sunday).

Starting around late-2022, Ortiz came under the supervision of a new assistant manager (identified only as “Ben”) and “began observing that he was starting to be treated disparately as compared with his younger, similarly situated servers,” according to the suit.

“By way of example, Plaintiff was frequently cut from his scheduled shifts earlier than his younger coworkers, despite the fact that he had more experience and was a more capable server,” it said. “In other instances, Plaintiff was subjected to derogatory comments directed at his age,” it said. For example, a bar manager named Roxie “oftentimes point-blank stated to Plaintiff, ‘You need to retire, you’re too old.’ ”

Ortiz also was subjected “to discriminatory comments directed at his age by Defendant’s recently hired sous chef,” the complaint said. That man, identified only as “John,” would tell Ortiz “ ‘You can’t even carry anything anymore,’ ” the complaint said. 

“This was false,” it said.

The lawsuit was moved Tuesday to federal District Court.

The Country Club, represented by Hartford-based Jackson Lewis PC, filed a motion the same day to extend its response to April 25. The firm did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Established in the 1890s, the Country Club of New Canaan, located on Country Club Road, is used by local organizations for a number of events throughout the year, including the Gridiron Club.

Ortiz had filed an administrative complaint with the Connecticut Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities and received a “release of jurisdiction” letter to pursue the civil suit, according to Paradisi’s complaint.

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. 

All reasons that the Country Club has given for the firing “are false and/or a pretext to mask its unlawful discriminatory intent,” the complaint said.

The Country Club “discriminated against” Ortiz “on account of his age,” it said, and “subjected Plaintiff 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.”

Due to that “unlawful conduct,” he “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.”

He’s suing for age discrimination as well as retaliation under the Family and Medical Leave Act, because he “engaged in protected activity by exercising or attempting to exercise rights to job-protected medical leave under the FMLA.”

Ortiz is seeking money damages, reinstatement or front pay, punitive and liquidated damages, attorneys’ fees and costs and “all other awardable relief.”

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