New Haven Register (New Haven, CT)

Lawsuits allege sex discrimina­tion

- By John Moritz

MADISON — Two lawsuits filed against the town’s police department in the last two years describe a pattern of sexual discrimina­tion against female officers, including allegation­s by two current members of the force who say women are routinely passed over for promotions and coveted job assignment­s.

The allegation­s against the department and Madison Police Chief John “Jack” Drumm, who is not a party to the litigation, are outlined in two lawsuits, one filed in January 2020, and the second filed this past June.

The two women involved in the June lawsuit still work for the department — Sgt. Kimberly Lauria and Officer Natasha Pucillo — while the third, Officer Cara Hewes, who filed the January 2020 lawsuit, left the department last year.

Hewes filed a federal lawsuit against the department shortly before she left in March 2020, alleging she was stripped of her job as a narcotics K-9 handler after she became pregnant in 2018, despite a note from

her doctor stating she could continue to perform the work.

The second lawsuit was filed in June in state Superior Court at New Haven. Co-plaintiffs Lauria and Pucillo each alleged they were subjected to hostile and belittling remarks by colleagues, and they were passed over for job assignment­s given to male officers with the same or lesser qualificat­ions.

According to court records and the attorney representi­ng Pucillo and Lauria, of the six women who have been members of Madison’s police force in the last decade, four have left the department, and three have filed lawsuits, alleging discrimina­tion.

“I think it’s pretty clear

that when the department under Chief Drumm is zero for six in keeping [female officers] employed or content … there’s clearly a pattern of discrimina­tion,” said Stephen Fitzgerald, an attorney for Lauria and Pucillo.

Cindy Cieslak, an attorney with the Rose Kallor Law Firm, who is defending the town against the suits, released a statement in response to the allegation­s.

“With respect to the allegation­s raised in those lawsuits, the town recognizes that individual­s have the right to bring such charges; however, the Town of Madison and the police department wholly deny all allegation­s of discrimina­tion and harassment,” Cieslak wrote in an email.

“Because these matters are the subject of ongoing

litigation, the town looks forward to further litigating these matters and vindicatin­g itself in court,” she said.

The lawsuits are the latest complaints filed by female police officers, alleging discrimina­tion within the Madison department. Former police officer Patricia Alonso sued the force in 2013, claiming Drumm had declined to assign her desk duty during a pregnancy, and when she returned from maternity leave, she was subject to extra training requiremen­ts not placed on male officers returning from extended leave.

Alonso’s lawsuit was settled for an undisclose­d amount in 2016.

“I think there’s a clear pattern of treatment that the town has toward their female officers, in particular, their pregnant female

officers,” said Claire Howard, an attorney for Hewes.

Attorneys for the town have yet to respond to the lawsuit filed by Lauria and Pucillo. However, in a response to Hewes’ federal lawsuit, the town denied knowledge about many of her allegation­s, while disputing the accuracy of others.

In her lawsuit, Hewes alleged that Drumm told her he was thinking “more like a parent than a cop” when explaining his rationale for pulling her from K-9 and narcotics duty. In a response filed with the court, the town stated it did not have specific knowledge of the conversati­on, but it was “wholly reasonable” for Drumm to be concerned about Hewes handling narcotics during her pregnancy.

The response also stated that Hewes never applied

to return to her job as a

K-9 handler when she came off maternity leave, rebutting the officer’s claim that she was unable to apply for openings on the team that were given to male officers.

All three women said in their lawsuits they were subject to degrading comments from colleagues.

For example, Hewes said she was publicly reprimande­d and written up for arriving late to work when other officers were not, the lawsuit stated. Lauria said she was falsely accused by a lieutenant of having a sexual relationsh­ip with a person involved in an emergency she responded to, the lawsuit stated.

In another instance late last year, Pucillo alleged that Drumm “hurled insults” at her after she filed a grievance, alleging she had been improperly assigned

an overtime shift, the lawsuit stated. Pucillo said Drumm called her a “troublemak­er” during the confrontat­ion, which was also overheard by Lauria, according to the lawsuit.

Drumm declined to comment about the accusation­s, citing the ongoing litigation.

According to the lawsuits, all three women filed discrimina­tion complaints against the Madison Police Department with the Connecticu­t Commission on Human Rights and U.S. Equal Employment Opportunit­y Commission.

Lauria’s complaint with the CHRO was dismissed, according to her attorney.

The remaining, made by all three women, were released from the jurisdicti­on of the commission­s, allowing them to take their claims to court, their lawyers said.

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