Articles Posted in Discrimination

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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To prove an Atlanta employment discrimination claim, the plaintiff must do more than simply allege that he or she was treated unfairly due to his or her age, race, gender, or other protected status. Rather, there must be competent evidence to show that the plaintiff suffered adverse treatment but a similarly situated employee who was not part of the protected class that included the plaintiff was treated differently. Without this important evidence, the plaintiff’s case will most likely be dismissed before trial.

Facts of the Case

The plaintiff in a recent federal court case was an African-American man who was terminated from his job as a patient care technician at the defendant hospital after a brief physical altercation with a psychiatric patient. According to the defendant, the reason for the termination was that the plaintiff had violated the defendant’s policy against inappropriate behavior toward, or discourteous treatment of, a patient. In the defendant’s view, the plaintiff “went beyond what [was] appropriate during the altercation and was rightfully terminated. The plaintiff maintained, however, that he had been the victim of unlawful employment discrimination on account of his race.

The federal district court granted summary judgment to the defendant, agreeing that the plaintiff had failed to establish a prima facie case of race discrimination in violation of Title VII, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e-2(a) insomuch as he failed to demonstrate a situation in which the defendant had treated a similarly situated employee outside of the plaintiff’s protected class in a more favorable manner. The district court agreed with the defendant and granted its motion for summary judgment. The plaintiff appealed.

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Employment discrimination lawsuits can be procedurally complicated. For example, in an Atlanta race discrimination case arising from an allegedly illegal termination, there may be multiple claims, amended complaints, and various motions to dismiss filed by the defendant(s). The trial court must sort out each of the issues in the case, as they develop. Sometimes, some of the plaintiff’s claims – and maybe even some of the defendants – may be dismissed from the litigation prior to trial.

Depending upon the procedural posture of a particular case, some of the court’s decisions may not be ripe for appeal until after the case is tried. Whether a ruling is subject to reconsideration by the trial court is sometimes another highly disputed topic.

Facts of the Case

The plaintiff in a recent federal district case was a former sheriff’s department employee who was terminated from his employment in late 2014. He filed suit against the sheriff’s office, two cities, two counties, a former sheriff, and another individual, asserting claims for race discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The sheriff and the other individual defendant filed a motion for summary judgment.

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Atlanta employment discrimination claims are subject to many rules, each and every one of which must be followed regardless of whether the employee is represented by experienced legal counsel trained in these matters or whether the employee is acting pro se, meaning representing herself or himself. Although a court may grant a bit of latitude to a pro se litigant by, for example, granting a brief extension of time in which to file documents regarding the issues and legal arguments in a particular case, the general expectations are the same for those represented by counsel and those representing themselves. Consequently, most pro se plaintiffs are destined to fail, sooner or later.

Facts of the Case

In a recent unpublished federal case, the pro se plaintiff filed suit against the defendant employer in November 2017, attempting to assert claims of sexual harassment, a hostile work environment, and retaliation in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964; age discrimination in violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act; and wage and hour practices in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act. The plaintiff originally filed her lawsuit in state court, but the matter was removed to federal district court by the defendant.

The defendant’s answer to the plaintiff’s complaint denied liability for her allegations and asserted some 30 affirmative defenses. Although the federal district court had a general preference of setting a trial date within a year of the filing of a complaint, the court opted to grant the pro se plaintiff additional time in which to prepare for trial and set the trial for June 2019. The trial court judge explained to the plaintiff the importance of complying with certain deadlines contained in the court’s scheduling order (such as the times for making initial disclosures, disclosing expert witnesses’ names and reports, and completing discovery). The plaintiff indicated that she understood the deadlines and that she would comply with them.

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It is unlawful for an employer to take adverse employment action against a worker (or would-be worker) based on matters such as age, sex, race, or disability. An employee who is aggrieved by such conduct should consult an Atlanta employment discrimination attorney about the possibility of filing an employment discrimination claim with the appropriate governmental agency (such as the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) or court.

Remedies that may be available in such cases include injunctive relief, reinstatement, lost wages, and other money damages. The plaintiff has the initial burden of proving discrimination in such cases. As the case progresses, the defendant employer may allege that it has a legitimate reason for its actions. The plaintiff must then show that this reason was “pretext” rather than a true, lawful reason for the conduct at issue.

Facts of the Case

In a recent unpublished federal appeals court case, the plaintiff was a 52-year-old African American woman who worked  as a school secretary/registrar for the defendant school board for approximately two years. After her contract was not renewed and she was unable to find other work in the school district, the plaintiff filed suit in federal district court, alleging claims for racial discrimination in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e, et seq., 42 U.S.C. § 1981, and 42 U.S.C. § 1983; age discrimination in violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, 29 U.S.C. §§ 621–34 (ADEA); and retaliation in violation of Title VII, § 1981, and the ADEA.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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In many Atlanta employment discrimination lawsuits, the employer makes an attempt to have the plaintiff’s case dismissed prior to trial via what is known as a “summary judgment” motion.

Summary judgment is appropriate only when the party seeking such relief is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Whether or not this is so revolves largely around the issue of whether there is anything that needs to be resolved by a jury as the trier of fact.

If the parties agree to the basic facts, the court may decide that summary judgment is appropriate. (It should be noted that both plaintiffs and defendants can file a motion for summary judgment, although the maneuver is much more common among defendants).

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