Conn. Official Wins Bias Claim

January 25, 2006

Connecticut Public Works Commissioner James Fleming has been awarded more than $146,000 in a lawsuit that accused his former employer of discriminating against him when he was a state lawmaker in the 1990s.

Fleming, a longtime Republican representative and senator from Simsbury who retired from the General Assembly in 1998, accused Switzerland-based Asea Brown Boveri Inc. of treating him differently than other employees because he worked as a legislator. He said he was paid less than what workers with comparable jobs would have received.

Fleming was hired as a legal assistant in 1977 by Windsor-based Combustion Engineering, which was bought out in 1990 by ABB, which makes power and automation technology. He was a director of community relations for ABB in the 1990s.

His lawsuit cited a state statute that protects legislators and candidates for the General Assembly from disparate treatment from the their employers because of their political activities.

In a Jan. 6 decision, Hartford Judge Trial Referee Robert Satter ruled in favor of Fleming, awarding him $146,561 in damages, plus legal fees, the Connecticut Law Tribune reported.

William Champlin, ABB’s attorney, did not return a call for comment.

One example listed in Satter’s decision was that Fleming was promoted to director of community relations in 1994 but his $45,000 annual salary was not increased.

Fleming alleged he asked for higher pay, but ABB cited the time he spent at the state Capitol and said his pay was about right for a part-time position.

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