Articles Posted in Employment Law Cases

There are laws in place to protect public employees who do the right thing and report wrongdoing in the workplace, only to find themselves reprimanded, demoted, or even terminated. While these laws will not necessarily keep retaliatory actions from happening, they do provide the basis for an Atlanta retaliatory discharge lawsuit, along with several important remedies that can be of benefit to the plaintiff.

Each case must be tried on it’s own merits, of course, but some commonly available potential outcomes include restoration of the employee’s job and/or benefits, back pay, and/or special damages. The first step in seeking justice in a retaliatory discharge case is to contact an attorney who can help you understand the laws that protect public employees and explain the steps that are necessary in order to assert one’s legal rights thereunder.

Facts of the Case

In a recent federal case, the plaintiff was former director of administration and finance and assistant executive director for the defendant airport commission. His employment began in 2008 and ended in 2017. He filed suit against the commission, its executive director (who was sued in both in individual and official capacities), and the city in which the airport was located, asserting a claim for retaliatory discharge. According to the plaintiff, he had reported several violations of law and policy by the commission. These included ongoing violations of the Disadvantaged Business Enterprise program, as well as harassment and discrimination against a fellow employee.

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When an employee, former employee, or potential employee seeks to assert an Atlanta employment law claim, he or she must do so in a timely fashion. The exact time for the filing of a claim is dependent upon both the applicable law and the factual circumstances at hand.

For instance, in a “whistleblower” suit filed under Georgia state law, a formal complaint must be filed within one year of the date that the plaintiff discovered the alleged retaliation (but no longer than three years after the retaliatory action). Other factors may come into play as well, but this one-year limitations period will control in most cases.

If the plaintiff in a potential state law whistleblower suit does not take the appropriate legal action in a timely fashion, it is likely that his or her case will be dismissed. In such a situation, he or she may have no legal remedy, despite the employer’s retaliatory conduct.

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When an employee believes that he or she has been wrongfully discriminated against in the workplace, there are several steps that must be taken in order to assert an Atlanta employment discrimination claim. These cases tend to be very fact-specific, and it is important for the record to be fully and effectively developed as the case proceeds towards trial.

An experienced employment law attorney can help an employee who has been fired or passed over for a new job or a promotion as he or she seeks justice in the court system. Thus, one of the most important steps in the process of holding a discriminatory employer accountable for its wrongdoing is talking to an attorney who handles these types of cases.

After filing certain paperwork with the proper state and/or federal agencies, the employee’s next step will be to file a lawsuit, that is, a formal complaint in a court of law. In many cases, the complaint is met with great resistance, often including one or more motions to dismiss the employee’s case.

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In an Atlanta sexual harassment claim filed under Georgia state law or federal law, the defendant will likely seek to have the plaintiff’s case dismissed on summary judgment prior to trial. Summary judgment is only appropriate in cases in which there are no genuine issues of material fact. This is because factual issues are to be determined by the finder of fact – typically a jury, but sometimes a trial court judge – during the trial, not beforehand by a motion judge.

Not just “any” dispute of fact will prevent a decision granting summary judgment (and, most likely ending the plaintiff’s case). Rather, only disputes in which a reasonable jury could find in favor of the party opposing the motion for summary judgment are considered “genuine issues of material fact.” Even though the nonmoving party may ultimately bear the burden of proof at trial, it is the party who seeks summary judgment who has the burden of showing an absence of genuine factual issues that must be resolved at trial.

In attempting to meet this burden, the party seeking summary judgment may rely on the parties’ pleadings, any depositions that have been taken during the discovery phase of the litigation, the parties answers to interrogatories and requests for admissions, affidavits, and the like. Of course, the party opposing the motion may point to similar evidence in resisting the motion. Ultimately, it is up to the trial court judge to decide whether the matter will end with summary judgment or proceed toward trial.

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An Atlanta wrongful termination lawsuit can arise from several different situations. Among these are cases in which someone is fired because of his or her gender, sex, or race, even if some other, superficial reason is alleged by the employer. Terminations based on a worker’s pregnancy or disability can also trigger a wrongful discharge case, as can the firing of someone who has been hurt on the job or been absent for jury duty. There are some situations, however, in which a termination – though alleged to be wrongful by the discharged worker – is upheld as lawful by the court system.

This can happen when an employer has a legitimate, non-discriminatory reason for letting a worker go. A case appealed to the intermediate state appeals court recently explored whether an accusation of sexual misconduct might fall under this category, even though there had not yet been a conviction concerning the allegations.

Facts of the Case

In a recent appellate case, the plaintiff was a man who worked as a tennis manager for the defendant county. In April 2018, however, the plaintiff was the target of a lawsuit in which it was asserted that he had sexually abused a teenage girl at the defendant’s tennis facilities. Although the plaintiff denied the allegations, the defendant placed him on paid administrative leave for a period of about four months. Thereafter, the plaintiff was moved to “unpaid suspension” for another four months. Thereafter, he was terminated; as grounds, the defendant stated that the plaintiff’s excessive absences had resulted in his termination.
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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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It is wrongful for an employer to discriminate against an employee because of his or her race, color, national origin, age, religion, sex, or disability. When an employer violates state or federal laws that forbid such conduct, the affected worker may be able to assert an Atlanta employment discrimination lawsuit.

If an employee (or former employee) is successful in his or her case, multiple forms of relief may be available, depending on the specific situation that gave rise to the claim. This might include injunctive relief (such as an order reinstating the worker to a particular position), front pay, back pay, compensatory damages, punitive damages, and/or attorney fees.

Of course, not every claim of employment discrimination is ultimately successful. The employee must be able to show that his or her race, age, sex, etc., was a motivating factor in the employer’s adverse decision (such as firing the employee or refusing him or her a promotion) and that any supposed non-discriminatory reason for the decision was not merely pretextual; unfortunately, this is not always possible. Continue reading ›

The validity of a covenant not to compete or other restriction in an employment agreement can be the focus of an Atlanta employment lawsuit. Typically, the employee urges the court to find that the agreement was not valid for a particular reason, such as being overly broad in its terms.

The employer, by contrast, tends to advocate for a finding that the employee is bound by the terms of the agreement, regardless of their scope. As in most disputes between employees and employers, the issue will likely be decided by a state or federal court judge if the parties are unable to resolve the matter between themselves.

Facts of the Case

In a recent case, the plaintiff was a man who began working for the defendant asset management firm in 2008. At the time that he was hired, the plaintiff signed an employment agreement. In 2010, the plaintiff signed a new employment agreement, which superseded the 2008 agreement. Several restrictive covenants were contained in the 2010 agreement, including a non-compete clause, a prohibition on soliciting or hiring the defendant’s current or former employees, and a prohibition on soliciting certain entities who had done business with the defendant.

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In an Atlanta employment case, both the plaintiff and the defendant have certain responsibilities. One of the plaintiff’s responsibilities is to answer, as fully, thoroughly, and honestly as possible, any legitimate requests for discovery promulgated by the defendant. This typically includes the names of potential witnesses, a description of the damages claimed by the plaintiff, and factual information such as the plaintiff’s employment history.

While defendant employers do sometimes ask for more information than they are entitled to, it is the court’s job to “reign them in,” so to speak, if and when the plaintiff files an objection. If an objection is not timely made, the plaintiff will likely be compelled to answer the requests, even if they are arguably overbroad. Lawsuits in federal court are placed on a fairly rigid pre-trial discovery deadline, and failure to provide appropriate responses within the time ordered by the court can, ultimately, cause the plaintiff’s case to be dismissed and his or her legal rights to be forfeited.

Facts of the Case

In a recent case filed in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Georgia, Savannah Division, the plaintiff was a former employee of the defendant city. After the plaintiff filed a lawsuit seeking to assert certain employment law claims, the defendant served interrogatories and requests for production of documents on the plaintiff. The plaintiff allegedly failed to answer these discovery requests in a timely and/or thorough manner despite multiple requests by the defendants that she do so, and the defendants filed a motion to compel. The motion was withdrawn, and an amended scheduling order was entering giving the plaintiff additional time in which to respond. After the new deadline had come and went, the defendant was granted permission to refile its motion to compel.

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As the saying goes, “There are two sides to a story.” Generally speaking, this is true. However, in an Atlanta wrongful termination case, there may be only one truth, and “the other side of the story” may simply be the opposing party’s attempt to avoid liability.

While the plaintiff in a civil lawsuit has the burden of proving certain things in order to recover money damages or other relief, the opposing party also has certain responsibilities – including defending the case in a manner consistent with the applicable laws, rules, and regulations. When a defendant refuses to play by the rules, causing his or her opponent to waste time, money, and resources in pursuing his or her legal remedies, there can be serious repercussions, including having to pay the other litigant’s attorney fees and costs and, sometimes, punitive damages.

Facts of the Case

In a wrongful termination case recently considered on appeal by the Supreme Court of Georgia, the plaintiff was a man who was terminated from his job in 2012. He filed suit against his former employer, alleging that the employer had breached a severance agreement and other provisions in his contract of employment. While the litigation was pending, the employer’s business was bought by another company, who was then substituted as a corporate successor-in-interest. The trial court granted partial summary judgment to the plaintiff, holding that there was no basis for the employer withholding payment to him. The plaintiff was later awarded attorney fees and litigation expenses, with the trial court holding the employer and its successor jointly and severally liable.

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