Articles Posted in Discrimination

If you are familiar with the science surrounding breastfeeding, you know that a mother’s breast milk offers her baby many health benefits. In fact, earlier this year, a report in the Augusta Chronicle trumpeted a study from the Medical College of Georgia that revealed that a mother’s breast milk contains special “protective factors” against the COVID-19 virus. With all these health benefits, it is no wonder that so many new mothers, including working moms, strive to breastfeed or express (“pump”) breast milk for their babies. Of course, as working moms know, balancing employment and maternal obligations can be tricky, especially at some workplaces. Fortunately, there are laws in place, so if you’ve been the victim of workplace discrimination triggered by your breastfeeding, expressing milk, or other pregnancy-related condition, then you should contact an experienced Atlanta pregnancy discrimination lawyer to discuss your options.

Here in Georgia, the laws protecting breastfeeding moms in the workplace got a lot stronger last year. The legislature passed a bill that significantly modified O.C.G.A 34-1-6. Before the change, the law said that an “employer may provide reasonable unpaid break time each day to an employee who needs to express breast milk for her infant child. The employer may make reasonable efforts to provide a room or other location (in close proximity to the work area), other than a toilet stall, where the employee can express her milk in privacy.”

It is important to “unpack” all of the details of this statute to understand the challenges breastfeeding moms on the job faced before the new bill became law. Almost every time you see the word “may” in a statute, it means “optional.” So, before August 2020, employers could provide break time to nursing moms – and could provide a space to breastfeed or pump — if the employer wanted to. The law imposed no demands on the employer at all. And that break time, if the employer provided it, was unpaid.

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The right to a trial by jury is one of the most fundamental rights guaranteed by the United States Constitution. It is important to note, however, that not every would-be litigant will have his or her day in court. While the right to have the issues considered by a jury of one’s peers is non-negotiable in a criminal matter, the same is not necessarily true in a civil case.

In a civil matter such as an Atlanta employment discrimination case, there may be the possibility that the matter will be submitted for arbitration rather than proceeding via the traditional litigation process. This is because an increasing number of employers are requiring employees to sign agreements to arbitrate as a condition of employment.

Generally speaking, employers prefer arbitration over litigation because they believe that the attorney fees and legal costs will ultimately be lower and the outcome is more likely to be pro-employer than if the case is heard by a jury. Of course, each case must stand on its own merits, regardless of whether it is litigated, arbitrated, or resolved in some other manner.

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Many Atlanta employment law claims, including those pertaining to an allegedly hostile work environment and/or unlawful discrimination, will at some point go through “summary judgment” proceedings. While not every court case goes through this step in the litigation process, it is not unusual for a case to be resolved at this stage rather than proceeding to trial.

Resolution of a case during summary judgment is tantamount to telling the plaintiff that he or she simply does not have enough evidence that, even if any disputes are resolved in his or her favor by the jury, there would ultimately be a judgment in his or her favor. In other words, summary judgment is a helpful tool when viewed as a way to encourage judicial economy, saving only cases that require a jury’s deliberation for full-blown trials.

Of course, a trial court’s decision on summary judgment is not necessarily the death knell to a plaintiff’s case. Sometimes, summary judgment is reversed on appeal, and the matter is sent back down to the trial court for further proceedings.

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Filing a claim for employment discrimination is not a particularly difficult process, so long as the basic rules for form and timeliness are observed. Winning an employment discrimination lawsuit based on such a claim is a very different matter, however.

Simply believing that one has been the victim of unlawful actions in the workplace is not enough to prevail on a discrimination claim in a court of law. Rather, there must be competent, credible evident that will support each and every element of the plaintiff’s case.

In fact, a case will probably not even be submitted for a jury’s consideration unless there are genuine issues of material fact that, if resolved in the plaintiff’s favor, would entitle him or her to a legal remedy such as money damages or injunctive relief. Thus, it is very important that a would-be litigant in an Atlanta employment discrimination case seek the assistance of qualified legal counsel before going forward.

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Just as in other types of civil cases, an Atlanta age discrimination lawsuit is subject to dismissal if the court in which it is filed lacks subject matter jurisdiction. When a court lacks this type of jurisdiction, it does not have the authority to render a binding decision in the case, and, thus, it must dismiss any claims over which it has no jurisdiction.

Usually, matters of jurisdiction are dealt with fairly early in the litigation process. This is typically done through a motion to dismiss made pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Rule 12(b)(6).

Facts of the Case

In a recent age discrimination lawsuit, the plaintiff was a 72-year-old man who applied for work as a facilities maintenance/construction manager with the defendant governmental agency in 2018. The defendant did not extend an offer of employment to the plaintiff, despite him having more than 40 years of experience in construction project management. Rather, the defendant chose to hire a younger, less-experienced candidate for the job. The plaintiff filed suit, alleging that the defendant had unlawfully discriminated against him in violation of the federal Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA).

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In an Atlanta employment discrimination case, there is a relatively short window for the filing of a complaint against the offending employer. If this requirement is not met, the plaintiff’s case will likely fail.

Thus, an important first step in holding an employer accountable under the law is to consult an attorney who can help you get started on your claim. An individual who is not represented by counsel is at a huge disadvantage in court, as it is almost guaranteed that the employer will be represented by legal counsel who is well-versed in the laws and procedures applicable in these types of cases.

Facts of the Case

In an employment discrimination case filed in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Georgia, Savannah Division, the plaintiff averred that she had been discriminated against by the defendants (a state board of regents and her former supervisor), on account of her gender in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. According to the plaintiff, she relocated from one campus to another but continued to experience discrimination in the terms and conditions of her employment. Consequently, the plaintiff filed a charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). She received a right to sue notice on November 21, 2017. She then filed suit against the defendants in federal district court on February 20, 2018. Later, the parties filed a stipulation of dismissal without prejudice, ending the plaintiff’s cause of action on July 29, 2019. Notably, the plaintiff was not represented by counsel at that time.

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Federal laws such as the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), 42 U.S.C. § 12112, et seq., and the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), 29 U.S.C. § 2601, et seq., provide valuable protections to workers who are disabled, become ill, or find themselves as caregiver for an ailing family member. However, there are limitations on the provisions of these laws, and not every Atlanta employment discrimination or retaliatory discharge case based on their alleged violation will be met with success.

As with other civil suits, the plaintiff has the burden of meeting certain elements of proof in order to prevail in his or her suit. Employers typically seek dismissal of the various claims filed against them if at all possible, and it is not unusual for a trial court to dismiss some (or even all) of a plaintiff’s claims prior to trial.

Facts of the Case

In a recent employment law case, the plaintiff was a woman who began working as a manager of a discount warehouse club owned by the defendant employer in March 2017. Between that time and the day that she was ultimately terminated in late 2018, several significant events occurred, including  multiple “coachings” regarding the plaintiff’s performance of her job, a pregnancy, and a work-related injury. After being terminated for an alleged “inability to perform her job,” the plaintiff filed a charge of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Thereafter, in 2019, the plaintiff filed suit in federal court, asserting claims for a) retaliation, discriminatory discharge, and failure to accommodate in violation of the ADA and b) for interference with her rights under the FMLA.

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Those who believe that they may have a valid Atlanta race discrimination lawsuit against a current, former, or potential employer have a limited time to take legal action. Failure to file the appropriate paperwork within the time allowed by law can result in a complete forfeiture of one’s legal rights.

Once the claim is filed, there are other requirements imposed upon the employee, including the burden of producing legally admissible evidence tending to show that he or she was the victim of unlawful discrimination due to his or her race or color. In turn, the employer is apt to present a different view of the case, one in which it had a legitimate, non-discriminatory reason for its adverse employment decision towards the plaintiff.

At that point, it is likely that the employer will seek summary judgment, that is, a pre-trial order establishing that it is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. If the motion is granted, the employee may then seek the review of the court of appeals. If the court of appeals holds differently than the trial court, the matter may be sent back to the trial court for further proceedings.

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In most Atlanta employment discrimination lawsuits, the employee and the employer disagree sharply as to why the employer made an adverse employment decision, such as terminating, not hiring, or not promoting the employee. The employee believes the decision was based on an unlawful discriminatory reason, such as his or her age or race, while the employer may offer legally legitimate reasons for its actions, arguing that another candidate was more qualified, or the employee had a history of misconduct in the workplace. The courts are charged with deciding, based on the evidence offered by the respective parties, which version of events is more credible.

Facts of the Case

The plaintiff in a recent case was a white female who filed suit against the defendants, a county and the county’s school district, alleging that the school district had wrongfully refused to hire her as an assistant principal on account of her race and her age. The plaintiff had served as the dean of students at a charter school in the defendant county from 2013 until late 2014, when the school district abolished the plaintiff’s dean position and, in its place, created an assistant principal job. The plaintiff applied for the job of assistant principal, but she was not hired. Instead, a younger, African American woman was hired as assistant principal, and the plaintiff was transferred to a middle school art teacher job.

The school district filed a motion for summary judgment. The United States District Court for the Middle District of Georgia granted the defendant’s motion and entered summary judgment in its favor as to the plaintiff’s claims under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as well as her age discrimination claims. The plaintiff sought appellate review of the district court’s decision.

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The process of filing an Atlanta employment discrimination claim can be a complex endeavor. For those who are not familiar with the legal system, there are likely to be many questions. “Where do I file my claim? How long do I have to take legal action? What, specifically, do I need to say in my pleadings?” When a claim is not properly filed or does not contain the necessary allegations, the court is likely to dismiss the plaintiff’s case. When a case is dismissed, this usually means that the plaintiff’s case is “dead.” Unless an appellate court overturns the ruling, the plaintiff will not receive any compensation from the defendant, nor will the employer be ordered to reinstate the plaintiff to his or her position.

Facts of the Case

The plaintiff in a recent employment discrimination lawsuit was an adjunct professor at the defendant college. He filed suit against the college and its board of trustees, alleging that the defendants had engaged in racially discriminatory hired practices by preferentially hiring Hispanic applicants for its physician assistant program in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

The college filed a motion to dismiss the plaintiff’s complaint on the ground that he had failed to state a claim. The plaintiff then filed several amended complaints, each of which essentially reiterated his allegations in the original complaint. Ultimately, the federal district dismissed the plaintiff’s case, and he appealed.

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