OUR PEOPLE

Johanna Zelman focuses her career on employment counseling and litigation matters.

Her clients include both private and public sector employers, with a specific strength in fact intensive and highly complicated litigation, both employment-related and in general civil rights. Johanna is highly successful in defending employers and governments before the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit Court of Appeal, United District Court and the Connecticut Supreme, Appellate and Superior Courts. Additionally, she has represented private and public sector employers before various administrative agencies, including the Connecticut Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities, the Connecticut Freedom of Information Commission and the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission, as well as the Connecticut Superior, Appellate and Supreme Courts.

Prior to her legal career, Johanna worked at Massachusetts General and Brigham & Women's Hospitals, both affiliates of Harvard University, located in Boston, Massachusetts. There, she aided doctors in clinical investigation of various anti-depressant medications and neurological disorders and managed large federally and privately funded research grants. While working at Massachusetts General Hospital, Johanna co-authored several research papers published in prominent medical journals, including the American Journal of Psychiatry, the Annals of Clinical Psychology and Psychosomatics.  She also gave several presentations at the 2000 Annual American Psychiatric Association Conference. This unique experience allows Johanna to provide clients in the health care industry with highly competent and knowledgeable representation.

While in law school, Johanna was a member of the Student Trial Lawyers Association and was awarded the CALI award for excellence in Juvenile Law.  She also participated in programs at the Center for Children's Advocacy aiding children with legal issues stemming from serious medical conditions, and at the UConn Health Center, Department of Community Medicine, developing a class for Connecticut health professionals on bioterrorism preparedness.

Representative Experience
  • Obtained summary judgment on claim pending against public school system that it failed to accommodate a first grade teacher in violation of the Americans with Disabilities and Connecticut Fair Employment Practices Act who. Teacher had previously been in a car accident resulting in an above the knee amputation and he used a prosthetic limb. After he developed an ulcer on his amputated stump, he claimed that the only reasonable accommodation was a transfer to sixth grade. The court disagreed and held that the extended paid and unpaid leaves of absence provided to the teacher, along with two (2) aides in his classroom, while may not have been the accommodation the teacher wanted, satisfied the public school’s obligations to accommodate him. Summary judgment was also granted on a claim of retaliation for placing him on leave because it was merely a restatement of his failure to accommodate claim.
  • Obtained summary judgment on claim by a unionized tenured public school teacher who claimed that his employer violated the Substantive and Procedural Due Process clauses when he was suspended for 20 days after multiple students reported to administration that the teacher had used profanity and threatened then. The Court held that the teacher received all pre- and post- deprivation process due to him and that the substantive due process claim failed as a matter of law because the conduct alleged was not conscious-shocking and there was another specific constitutuional amendment that more appropriately addressed the conduct at issue. Breach of contract claim was previously dismissed because the teacher failed to exhaust his administrative by first brining a claim against his union for breach of the duty of fair representation.
  • Obtained dismissal of claim against public school system by tenured teacher alleging race discrimination pursuant to the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment because she had been provided a full evidentiary hearing lasting 13 days and been found incompetent and that there was other due and sufficient cause for her termination prior to termination and, therefore, in order to plead discrimination, she had to plead that there was a similarly situated Caucasian employee, not just that a Caucasian employee was hired to replace her, which the Court held was impossible to do; awarded sanctions under Rule 11 because Due Process claim was frivolous.
  • Conducted extensive review and audit of municipal civil service rules and hiring procedures and advised as to deficiencies during recent hiring process.
  • Successfully defended protective order filed to block employer from performing a mental fitness for duty examination on an employee exhibiting performance and behavioral concerns that lead to concerns about workplace safety.
  • Successfully defended municipal employer in First Amendment claim by police constable alleging that she was terminated in retaliation to a previously filed lawsuit alleging gender discrimination and harassment.
  • Obtained dismissal of state law constitutional and tort claims brought by a student and her parents against the public schools alleging that teachers attempted to indoctrinate the student and her two older sisters into a death cult. Issues of fact remained on federal constitutional claims.
Honors & Awards
  • "Connecticut Super Lawyers," Super Lawyers magazine (2013 – 2015).
  • "Connecticut Rising Stars," Super Lawyers magazine (2012).
  • AV® Preeminent Peer Review Rated by Martindale Hubbell.
Languages
  • Spanish (fluent)