A U.S. District Court judge has ruled against a motion to dismiss a New Canaan Public Schools lunch lady’s claims that she was discriminated against based on gender, labored in a hostile work environment and suffered intentional infliction of emotional distress by her boss, the schools’ head of food services.
In a Nov. 25 order, Judge Alvin Thompson said that Antonia Torcasio, 59—a lunch worker for 12 years who has been out on unpaid sick leave since October 2013—was subject to an “adverse employment action” under her manager, Bruce Gluck, that “occurred under circumstances giving rise to an inference of invidious discrimination.”
“Drawing inferences in a light most favorable to the plaintiff, the allegations in the Complaint, taken as true, show that Gluck treated women one way and men quite differently, and the basis for his conduct was gender.”
The ruling upholds six of the eight counts against the defendants—Gluck, the Board of Ed and the town—brought in a lawsuit filed in January by Torcasio’s attorney, Richard Pate of Westport. The Board of Ed’s attorneys, Stamford-based Ryan Ryan Deluca LLP, in April filed a Motion to Dismiss.
Asked about the ruling, Pate said it “brings my client one step closer to having her day in court.”
“Given the quantity and severity of Bruce Gluck’s misconduct, it seems that the defendants will now defend themselves by asserting that he was horrendous to all, males and females, so he should be left alone because he did not discriminate,” Pate said. “I believe this defense will fail and hope so for the sake of such a beautiful town.”
The judge in his ruling did dismiss two counts against the school board and town, for negligent supervision (which Torcasio’s attorney had already withdrawn).
Catherine Nietzel, attorney for Ryan Ryan DeLuca, said the decision “was not unexpected as the court can consider only the allegations, not the facts as we have learned them through discovery.”
“We will have a very strong summary judgment motion based on all the evidence, almost all of which has been gathered now. The facts learned through the discovery process do not support the plaintiff’s claims.”
According to the original lawsuit, Gluck created a hostile work environment by screaming, cursing, throwing things and otherwise intimidating and degrading women he oversees—causing one to urinate herself and sending others to therapy.
In her complaint, Torascio—an Italy native who moved to New Canaan in 1970—said Gluck has abused only women (not men) in the food services division, which is composed of 29 women and four men.
“Mrs. Torcasio was also subjected to listening to Mr. Gluck refer to female members of the BOE, mothers of students and female staff members, including the school principal, as ‘[b-tches],’ ‘morons’ and ‘schmucks,’ ” the complaint said. “Mr. Gluck also used the words ‘[b-tch]’ and some form of the word ‘[f-word]’ when referring to female employees.”