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Federal Court in Georgia Dismisses Employee’s Lawsuit for Discrimination, Retaliation

shaking-hands-1097209-mA federal judge in Georgia recently dismissed the lawsuit of an employee who claimed that she had been discriminated against due to her gender and retaliated against for taking time off under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).

In Wright v. Aramark Corporation, Tracey Wright was employed by Aramark Corporation and worked at the Albany State University campus.  She had originally applied for the position of office manager, but after she was hired, claimed that her position was changed to “office worker” with less pay, despite the fact that she did the work of an office manager until the date of her termination.  During her time of employment, she claimed to have been subject to harassment, discrimination, and inappropriate remarks.  For example, one co-worker allegedly placed dog bones on her chair to imply that she was a dog.  Furthermore, she claimed that her employer failed to promote her, failed to compensate her fairly, knowingly hired and promoted individuals who tended to discriminate against Wright, denied her religious accommodations, and penalized her for complaining against unlawful discrimination.  Her employer also violated her rights under the FMLA, reprimanding her for and interfering with her right to take medical leave.

Wright claimed that in addition to violating the FMLA, her employer was liable under Title VII for discrimination, for wrongful termination, and for a violation of the Equal Pay Act.  Aramark Corporation and Albany State University responded to her complaints by filing a motion to dismiss, claiming that Albany State University was not Wright’s employer and, as a government entity, could not be sued.  Wright responded that Albany State University could be sued under Title VII and was her employer because the stationary used by Aramark stated that Aramark was a component of the university.  She also argued that individual supervisors mentioned in the complaint could be held vicariously liable through Title VII.

The district court considered whether Wright’s complaint should be dismissed under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6), “failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.”  First, the judge noted that individual employees could not held liable under Title VII, as Wright had sought to do, because it only applied to the “employer.”  Wright had alleged no facts to suggest that any of the individuals was her employer.  Next, the judge looked at Wright’s gender discrimination allegation and found that she had provided little factual evidence that she had been discriminated against or harassed due to her gender.  The same applied to Wright’s hostile work environment claim — she did not plead sufficient facts to show that the hostility was due to her being in a protected class.  Third, the judge found that Wright provided little factual evidence of how her employer retaliated against her for taking FMLA leave.  Finally, the judge found that Wright’s Equal Pay Act claim failed because she never alleged that a male co-worker earned more than she did.

Because Wright’s complaint did not provide a sufficient factual basis for her claims, the district court dismissed her case without prejudice, meaning that Wright could conceivably amend her complaint and file again.  This case demonstrates the importance of having a well-drafted complaint in order to get one’s lawsuit through the door.

Mays & Kerr represents plaintiffs in employment matters, including employment discrimination, wage and hour, FMLA, and more.  With offices in Atlanta and Nashville, we offer a client-centered philosophy and strive to accomplish our clients’ goals as if they are our own.  If you live in Georgia or Tennessee and need an experienced Atlanta employment law attorney, contact us today at 1-877-986-5529.