In an Atlanta employment discrimination suit involving government officials as defendants, it is not unusual for defendants named in their individual capacity to seek dismissal of the claims against them based on qualified immunity. Although the doctrine of qualified immunity is complex, a court that grants dismissal of a claim based on qualified immunity is basically saying that a government official who performs a discretionary task in his or her official capacity should be shielded from suit. There are exceptions to qualified immunity, however. One of these involves situations in which the official violated a clearly established law (such as a constitutional right or a federal statute).

Facts of the Case

In a recent unpublished federal court case decided by the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit (which hears cases appealed from district courts in Georgia, Alabama, and Florida), the plaintiff was a former police officer who first joined the defendant city police department in 1997. He transferred to the defendant’s tactical unit in 2009; notably, the plaintiff’s application to transfer into the unit was initially denied but was granted after he filed a grievance with the personnel board. The plaintiff aspired to work in the unit’s K-9 department, but he was passed over, and white officers were given the positions when openings arose.

The defendant filed a charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, complaining of the defendant sergeant’s failure to recommend him for a K-9 vacancy in 2013. In 2015, the EEOC issued a right-to-sue letter. In the meantime, the plaintiff had been injured in a motorcycle accident that limited him to administrative duties, and he subsequently retired. In his complaint, he sought legal redress under both 42 U.S.C. §§ 1981, 1983 and Title VII. The federal district court partially granted and partially denied the defendants’ motion for summary judgment. The sergeant sought review of the district court’s decision, particularly its rejection of his claim for qualified immunity.

Continue reading ›

Employees who believe that they have been discriminated against due to age by a current, former, or potential employer may assume that they will eventually have their day in court if they file an Atlanta age discrimination claim.

While the United States Constitution does guarantee the right to a jury trial in some situations, the right to have a jury determine the issues in a civil case is not universal. For one thing, an employee many be asked to forfeit his or her right to a jury trial as a condition of employment.

If the worker signs an arbitration agreement prior to going to work for a certain employer, it is highly likely that any disputes between the parties will eventually be settled through arbitration rather than litigation.

Continue reading ›

Last week, we told you about a Georgia retaliatory discharge claim. A woman was allegedly fired in response to her husband (who worked for the same employer) speaking out against workplace discrimination of a job applicant. As that case explained, the husband, too, had filed a claim against the employer, attempting to assert a claim under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. The outcome of the wife’s case hinged on her husband’s case, insomuch as he was the primary actor against whom the alleged retaliation was directed.

Facts of the Case

In the husband’s companion case, he alleged that he was the vice president of sales and marketing of the defendant company in 2017 when an advertising manager resigned. A woman who worked for a local media group expressed interest in the job. Ultimately, she met with the plaintiff and submitted a resume to his wife, who worked in human resources.  Unfortunately, the woman’s appearance (she was allegedly wearing tight, rather revealing clothing during the meeting) became a quick topic of discussion in the workplace. After a co-worker called the woman “a whore” and suggested that management would never allow a “bombshell like that” to work there, the plaintiff insisted that discrimination based on the woman’s appearance would be unlawful. (In opposition to the version of events presented by the plaintiff, the defendant company offered testimony by other employees who testified that they had been embarrassed by the plaintiff’s comments about the “well endowed” and “very, very, very well built” job applicant.)

Ultimately, the plaintiff and his wife were both terminated from their employment, and the plaintiff was issued a notice of suit rights by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. After the plaintiff filed a lawsuit in federal court, the defendant filed a motion for summary judgment.

Continue reading ›

Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e, et seq., it is unlawful for an employer to discriminate against a worker because he or she has opposed an unlawful employment practice. (An employer is also prohibited from discrimination in retaliation for a worker’s formal charge or participation in the investigation of an allegedly unlawful employment practice).

In many Atlanta retaliatory discharge cases, the employer is quick to file a motion alleging that the plaintiff cannot provide adequate evidence to support his or her claim. In order to survive such a motion, the plaintiff must be able to show that he or she participated in an activity that was protected by law, that there was a materially adverse employment action against him or her, and that there was a causal connection between the activity and the adverse action.

Facts of the Case

The plaintiff in a recent employment law case was a woman who was terminated from the defendant company’s employment in 2017. She filed multiple charges with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and was issued a notice of suit rights a few months thereafter. The gravamen of the plaintiff’s complaint was that the defendant had fired her in retaliation for her husband reporting that the defendant had allegedly discriminated against an attractive female job applicant who came into the defendant’s office in what some workers characterized as unprofessional attire. (The plaintiff’s husband was also employed by the defendant employer during the relevant time period.)

Continue reading ›

When someone files an Atlanta employment discrimination lawsuit based on an alleged act of race, color, gender, or religion in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e to 2000e-17, he or she must be able to establish that the defendant employer discriminated against him or her in the terms and conditions of his or her employment and that the plaintiff’s race, color, religion, or sex was a motivating factor in the defendant’s decision(s) concerning the plaintiff’s employment.

Motions for summary judgment are often filed by the defendant in employment discrimination lawsuits. If summary judgment is granted, all or part of the plaintiff’s claims are dismissed. If the motion is denied, the plaintiff’s case proceeds toward trial.

Facts of the Case

In a recent federal case, the plaintiff was a 56-year-old, dark-skinned, black Christian male who alleged that he had been the victim of unlawful employment discrimination and that he had been retaliated against for complaining about this unlawful discrimination. He filed suit against the defendant employer in the United States District Court for the Middle District of Georgia, Columbus Department, seeking legal redress for the defendant’s failure to pay him for three day of work that he missed while he was on jury duty even though it paid a black woman for her time on jury duty; his supervisor’s failure to grant him religious accommodations on Sundays; certain “negative comments” by his supervisor following his complaint to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission; and his termination the following month.

Continue reading ›

The Americans with Disabilities Act was enacted with the purpose of ending discrimination against individuals with disabilities by making it unlawful for employers to discriminate against a qualified individual on the basis of disability.

In order to assert a claim under the Act, a plaintiff must be able to prove that he or she is disabled, is a qualified individual, and was subjected to unlawful discrimination due to his or her disability.

If you believe that you have a claim under the Act, you should talk to an Atlanta disability discrimination attorney about filing a claim. There are time limits in such cases, and it is important that you assert your legal rights in a timely fashion.

Continue reading ›

Filing an Atlanta employment law claim can be a complicated endeavor. Unlike many other types of cases, there may be pre-filing requirements that, if not complied with, can result in a claim be dismissed later on.

If you believe that your employer has violated state or federal law, it is important to talk to an experienced attorney about your situation as soon as possible. An attorney can explain your legal rights, help you investigate your case, and make sure all the appropriate paperwork is filed in a timely manner.

Facts of the Case

In a recent case, the plaintiff was a woman who went to work as an employee financial representative for the defendant company in 2013 and had exemplary job performance for her first two years of employment. After witnessing her husband commit suicide in 2015, however, the plaintiff’s work performance suffered because she was grief-stricken and emotionally raw. According to the plaintiff’s complaint, a few months after her husband’s death, the plaintiff reportedly requested an accommodation, but both her manager and his supervisor refused her request. Thereafter, the plaintiff was granted short-term disability leave. About a year later, the plaintiff was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder. Her work performance continued to deteriorate, her requests for a transfer to a different office were denied, and she was eventually terminated.

Continue reading ›

In an Atlanta race discrimination lawsuit, the initial burden of proving wrongful conduct – such as a termination allegedly based on race or color – rests on the plaintiff.

If the plaintiff makes an acceptable showing of discrimination, the defendant is then given an opportunity to argue that the plaintiff’s termination (or other adverse employment action) was based on a legitimate reason rather than on the employee’s race, color, gender, age, etc.

When an employer offers what appears to be a legitimate reason for its conduct towards the employee, the burden then shifts back to the employee to show that the employer’s purported reason for its action was merely pretextual.

Continue reading ›

No one should have to put up with discriminatory treatment in the workplace. After all, it’s 2019, and laws have been on the books for decades that protect workers from racial, gender, and age discrimination. Still, unlawful discrimination happens every day, sometimes culminating in an Atlanta employment discrimination lawsuit.

Of course, those who engage in such shameful conduct are rarely, if ever, willing to admit that they have done wrong. Instead, they make every effort to see that a plaintiff’s claims are dismissed by the courts. Fortunately, judges tend to see things differently, and many ill-advised motions to dismiss are met with a denial, either in whole or in part, by the trial court.

Facts of the Case

In a recent case, the plaintiff was a woman who worked for the defendant manufacturing company from 2015 to 2018. She claimed that she was subjected to multiple instances of gender discrimination at the hands of the defendant supervisor during that time. Some of this conduct was verbal (such as calling her “stupid,” “slow,” and “ignorant”), but there were instances in which the supervisor’s actions physically harmed the plaintiff. After multiple complaints to human resources failed to remedy the situation, the plaintiff quit her job and filed a charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Continue reading ›

Everyone wants to be paid fairly, from the most modestly paid fast food worker to the most highly compensated executive. Even judges want to be paid every penny that they are due. In addition to state and federal laws regarding wage and hour issues, there may be other remedies available to a worker who believes that he or she has not been paid fairly. An Atlanta employment law attorney can explain the process of seeking back pay or other compensation that you may be due if  you suspect that your employer has acted illegally with regards to payment of your salary or wages.

Facts of the Case

In a recent case, the plaintiff was a state court county judge who filed a petition seeking a writ of mandamus against the defendants, a county and several of its commissioners. According to the plaintiff, she was owed back pay and other relief due to the defendants’ violation of Georgia Constitution of 1983, Article VI, § VII, Part V. The constitutional provision upon which the plaintiff relied states, in essence, that an incumbent judge’s salary, allowance, or supplement is not to be decreased during his or her term of office; the plaintiff averred that the county had improperly calculated her salary, resulting in an illegal reduction in her overall compensation each year from 2007 to 2017.

The trial court ruled in the defendants’ favor, holding that the plaintiff’s mandamus action was barred by gross laches but, even if it was not, mandamus was not an appropriate vehicle for the relief sought by the plaintiff and, even if mandamus was proper, there was no merit to the plaintiff’s claims.

Continue reading ›