Articles Posted in Employment Discrimination

When people hear the word “discrimination,” they may often associate it with historically marginalized groups, like people of color, women, LGBT+ people, and so forth. The law, however, is broader than that. Federal anti-discrimination statutes protect people who encounter discrimination based on protected characteristics, regardless of whether or not they were members of a historical minority/disadvantaged group. Even if you’re male, White, American, or “straight,” you still have the possibility of pursuing – and winning – a federal discrimination lawsuit. So, if you’ve endured this sort of harm, don’t hesitate to contact an experienced Atlanta employment discrimination lawyer to discuss your legal options.

A federal race discrimination case that originated in neighboring Alabama exemplifies this point. T.P., a White woman, worked for a cabinet manufacturer inspecting and repairing cabinets. As workloads increased, so did employee hours. Several employees complained about the long hours, including T.P. and two of her Black colleagues. Allegedly, the operations manager, who also was Black, fired T.P. for complaining but issued no discipline to the two Black workers who complained. According to the employer, T.P. was fired for “insubordination.”

That treatment served as the basis for T.P.’s federal race discrimination lawsuit under Title VII and 42 U.S.C. Section 1981. In addition to the complaining incident, T.P. had other alleged evidence of racially disparate treatment. She provided the court with a set of the employer’s disciplinary records, which included 12 circumstances where employees of color were cited for insubordination but were not fired. At least three of those 12 were subordinates of the same operations manager who fired T.P.

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Sometimes, a degree of employer flexibility may be an important ingredient in that employer avoiding employment litigation and potential civil liability. However, as a recent disability discrimination case originating in Savannah highlights, the mere fact that an employer behaved in a way that seems excessively strict, harsh, or severe, doesn’t necessarily mean the employer broke the law. Even if the employer fired a worker based on motivations that were not “prudent or fair” — or had no reason at all for the termination — that firing is permissible as long as it “was not rooted in discrimination” or some other basis forbidden by law. Whether you’re an employer defending against a disability discrimination lawsuit or a worker harmed by illegal discrimination, an experienced Atlanta disability discrimination lawyer can be crucial in protecting your rights and interests.

The worker in the Savannah case was a crane operator for the State of Georgia’s ports authority. He also was an Army veteran who suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as a result of his time in combat.

In the summer of 2018, the operator requested 12 weeks of Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) leave to undergo “intensive therapy” for PTSD. As the 12 weeks neared their end, the operator’s doctor recommended 12 more weeks of leave, and the employer approved the extension. Near the end of the second 12-week period, the operator requested a transfer to a different work area. HR informed the operator that he needed to submit a signed letter that (1) stated he could safely return to work and (2) listed the disability accommodation (transfer) he sought.

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Whether you’re an employee who’s endured discrimination or an employer facing a discrimination claim, it is important to understand how the employment discrimination litigation process works. An employee’s success is predicated upon clearing a series of evidentiary hurdles. For employers, success may lie in persuading the court that any one of those components was lacking. Whichever side you’re on, an experienced Atlanta employment discrimination lawyer can help you pursue your case in the most effective way possible.

As we noted last month, workers who allege employment discrimination may prove their cases either by presenting a “convincing mosaic” of circumstantial evidence or by satisfying the elements of the test created by the U.S. Supreme Court in the 1973 case of McDonnell Douglas v. Green. A recent federal race discrimination case from here in Atlanta shows the McDonnell Douglas procedure at work, and how a single evidentiary flaw can doom a worker’s case.

The employee was a sales representative for an analytic and diagnostic lab. After two years, the lab fired the representative. It said she had underperformed. She said it was race and gender discrimination.

Last year, a few major U.S. Supreme Court rulings turned 50 years old. The first case to come to many minds probably is the landmark 1973 ruling of Roe v. Wade. However, the name at the tips of employment lawyers’ tongues probably is the discrimination case of McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green. Recently, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals (whose reach encompasses federal matters in Georgia, Florida, and Alabama,) issued a significant decision clarifying exactly how the McDonnell Douglas case’s precedent does — and does not — impact discrimination litigation today. If you have questions about employment discrimination, you need to consult a knowledgeable Atlanta employment discrimination lawyer who can provide you with information that is fully up to date.

The recent discrimination case, decided in December, involved L.T., an African-American woman and the superintendent of a juvenile detention center, and her employer, the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice. After one particularly problematic day at the center, the assistant secretary of detention services assembled a team to review staffing and personnel issues at L.T.’s facility. After the team completed that review, the assistant secretary fired L.T., despite the superintendent’s 16-year record devoid of negative performance reviews or discipline.

The superintendent sued for race and sex discrimination. A key part of her case was comparator evidence; namely, that two similarly situated white Juvenile Justice employees had faced similar problems but were treated very differently. The department immediately fired L.T.; the two white superintendents who similarly faced allegations of a lack of control and a failure to follow departmental policies “received only oral reprimands, were allowed to transfer to different facilities, and were granted multiple opportunities to comply with various recommendations for improvement.”

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One of the more common issues employers and employees may encounter regarding a possible discrimination lawsuit is the existence of a valid arbitration agreement. Many employers include these agreements with other contractual documents that new hires sign as part of their “onboarding” process. Whether you’re a worker looking to litigate a discrimination claim or an employer seeking to compel arbitration (or ensure that your arbitration agreement is valid under the law,) it pays to get advice and representation from an experienced Atlanta employment discrimination lawyer.

The key for employers seeking to utilize arbitration to resolve workplace discrimination disputes is ensuring that everything about these agreements meets the law’s tests for validity. If the agreement is valid and enforceable, then the employer can get an order compelling arbitration rather than litigating in court. If the agreement isn’t valid under the law or no agreement exists at all, then the worker has the right to proceed in court.

A flaw — either in the wording or the execution process — can potentially sabotage the employer’s preference for arbitration, as one employer found out recently.

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Proper written documentation can be the difference between success and failure for an employer facing a discrimination lawsuit. The more contemporaneously created items showing the issues the employee had, the more support the employer will have for an argument that it took adverse action against the employee for legitimate reasons and not because of impermissible discrimination. While sufficient documentation is vital, too much extraneous documentation potentially can give a worker extra bases for attacking an employer’s decision-making, so striking the proper balance in documenting employees’ HR files is a must. If you have questions about your documentation practices and compliance with discrimination law, be sure to check with a knowledgeable Atlanta race discrimination lawyer.

A race discrimination case involving a well-known figure in this city shows a clear example of this.

The plaintiff was a white man who worked as an on-air meteorologist for one of Atlanta’s TV stations from 2012 to 2019. During that time, the meteorologist allegedly engaged in numerous acts of sexual harassment, including informing a female colleague that he dreamt about sex with her and telling a different station employee about a group sex experience he supposedly had.

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Race discrimination cases can span a broad spectrum, from those involving allegations of employers blatantly and remorselessly setting out to discriminate against certain races to employers whose discriminatory misconduct was wholly lacking in “racial animus.” In either scenario, the discrimination is illegal and can entitle the workers harmed by it to recover substantial compensation. To get the information you need about race discrimination and your workplace, be sure to contact an experienced Atlanta race discrimination lawyer as soon as possible.

One especially pernicious form of race discrimination is something called “race matching.” In these instances, which often arise in the sales industry, the employer considers only candidates of one specific race, believing that a person of that race will “match” with a desired target audience and therefore be more successful with those customers.

K.F. was an African-American sales professional caught up in that sort of illegal practice. In September 2019, a shipping company offered him an account executive position. A short time later, though, the company rescinded the offer, ostensibly after discovering that K.F. had on his criminal record a 2014 misdemeanor for disorderly conduct.

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A few years ago, Harvard University conducted a poll about discrimination. The results revealed that 57% of African-American workers “reported discrimination in pay and consideration for promotions.” While the denial of promotions based on a candidate’s race remains a serious problem, it is also true that some denials of promotions to minority candidates are the result of legitimate, non-discriminatory standards and decision-making. Whether you’re a worker who has experienced a racially discriminatory denial of a promotion, or you’re an employer facing a misguided claim of discriminatory conduct, a knowledgeable Atlanta race discrimination lawyer can help you address your situation promptly and effectively.

A recent race discrimination case that originated here in Atlanta provides an example of the latter of the two possibilities above. The worker, P.D., was an African-American man who worked for the Transportation Security Administration’s Atlanta field office as a supervisory air marshal. In 2016, he applied for two higher-lever positions — one in Atlanta and one in Miami. The TSA awarded the positions to two white employees in February 2017.

One month later, anonymous coworkers at the Atlanta office alleged that P.D. had engaged in a years-long pattern of rampant sexual harassment of female coworkers. The marshal sexually harassed women at “every level” of the Atlanta office and also retaliated against women who rebuffed his advances, according to the letter. The TSA’s investigation into the allegations found that the marshal engaged in misconduct.

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The Americans With Disabilities Act makes it illegal for employers to discriminate against employees or job candidates who have qualifying disabilities. The law also, however, protects workers from employment discrimination arising as a result of their association with someone who has a disability, even if the worker is not disabled in any way. If you think you’ve been the target of associational discrimination — or you’re an employer facing this kind of assertion — you should speak to a knowledgeable Atlanta disability discrimination lawyer, who can help you better understand your rights and options.

An associational discrimination case under the ADA proceeds much like other federal discrimination claims. The worker must first establish that she has a prima facie case of discrimination and, if she does so, the employer must present a legitimate, non-discriminatory reason for the negative action it took against the worker. If both of those things happen, the law shifts the burden back to the worker to demonstrate that the employer’s stated reason was really just a pretext for its discriminatory motive.

As a recent ADA case from the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals demonstrates, it’s important to understand that simply because an adverse employment action follows closely after the employer discovers a worker’s association with a person with disabilities, that alone won’t establish a winning associational discrimination case.

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As an employee or an employer, you undoubtedly understand that the totality of the “terms and conditions” of employment extends beyond just the basics like salary. Fringe benefits, especially things like health insurance coverage and retirement, can represent extremely important terms of employment. Discrimination related to fringe benefits potentially may entitle a worker to take legal action… but the viability of that worker’s lawsuit may depend on whether the discrimination occurred during or after the worker’s period of employment. If you have questions about discrimination and fringe benefits, make sure you’re getting the knowledgeable answers you need by talking to an experienced Atlanta disability discrimination lawyer.

A recent disability discrimination case originating in federal court in Florida is a reminder of the importance of this distinction between alleged discrimination that occurs during employment versus post-employment.

The worker, K.S., was a firefighter for a local government from 1999 to 2018. On Nov. 1, 2018, she took disability retirement at age 47 as a result of her Parkinson’s Disease.

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