Articles Posted in Employment Law Cases

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In a Georgia employment law case, a worker who has been fired or has voluntarily left his or her employment may make a claim for unemployment benefits. However, such a claim may be met with resistance by the workers’ former employer, especially if it was the employee, rather than the employer, who terminated the working relationship between the parties.

This is because, generally speaking, those who voluntarily quit a job are not entitled to receive unemployment benefits. However, it is worth noting that there are some important exceptions to this general rule.

Facts of the Case

In a recent case, the plaintiff was a commercial driver for the defendant sanitation service. After being employed by the defendant for about two years, the plaintiff was involved in a traffic accident while performing his duties. The accident involved a fatality. The plaintiff was not at fault in the accident. Due to physical injuries he suffered in the crash, the plaintiff did not immediately return to work. He was later diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and told the defendant that he could no longer drive professionally due to trauma that he suffered in the accident.

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While many Atlanta employment lawsuits involve claims made by a private individual against his or her corporate employer, not every case follows this model. In some suits, the defendant is a governmental entity for whom the plaintiff worked or aspired to work.

In such a suit, the person seeking to assert a legal remedy may be an employee of the defendant governmental entity, or he or she may be someone in a position of authority.

Facts of the Case

The plaintiff in a recent Georgia Supreme Court case was a mayor who was officially removed from office by the defendant city in May 2017. The removal occurred as a result of a hearing, presided over by a municipal court judge, in which the defendant’s city council voted to remove the plaintiff from his position. The plaintiff first sought review of that decision by filing a direct appeal in superior court but later filed a petition for a writ of certiorari. For awhile, the plaintiff continued to work as mayor, receiving his usual salary and benefits, but he stopped working at some point while the case was pending.

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In certain types of businesses, it is not unusual for an employee to be asked to sign a covenant not to compete against his or her employer, should he or she choose to terminate his or her employment in the future. An employee who chooses to violate such an agreement may find himself or herself the defendant in an Atlanta breach of contract action to enforce the terms of the employment agreement.

Of course, not every such agreement is enforceable in court. Typically, a covenant not to compete must be reasonable in scope and duration, issues that, ultimately, are up to the court to decide.

Facts of the Case

The plaintiff in a recent state court case was a limited liability company that owned a barbershop in Atlanta. The defendant began working as a master barber for the plaintiff’s barbershop in 2015. At first, the defendant was classified as an independent contractor, but, after two of the plaintiff’s employees left to open competing businesses in close proximity to its barbershop, the defendant was asked to sign an employment contract. This agreement contained several restrictions on the defendant’s post-employment activities, should she choose to terminate her employment with the plaintiff.

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Having knowledgeable and assertive legal representation in an Atlanta employment discrimination case is crucial. Although the law allows those who choose to represent themselves the freedom to do so, this is almost never a good idea.

Unfortunately, a Georgia woman (who, ironically, worked for the court system against which she attempted to bring suit) found this out the hard way. Because she had named the wrong defendant in her lawsuit, her case was dismissed.

Facts of the Case

The plaintiff in a recent case was an employee of a certain county juvenile court. Choosing to represent herself rather than hire an attorney, the employee filed suit in federal court against the defendant, the consolidated city-county government of the town and county in which the juvenile court where the plaintiff worked was located. In her complaint against the defendant, the plaintiff alleged that she had been the victim of unlawful discrimination and sought various legal remedies under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e to 200e-17.

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Atlas Logistics Group Retail Services (Atlanta), LLC had a relatively serious business problem stemming from what it believed was employee misconduct. The employer also had what it thought was a viable solution. It just needed DNA samples from some of its employees to identify the misbehaving worker. Unfortunately for Atlas, its plan had one major flaw:  it was against federal law. As of June 22, that flaw cost the employer $2.25 million in damages awarded to two employees for the employer’s violation of the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act.

The problem began when Atlas discovered several piles of human feces in one of its warehouses. While disturbing to any employer, the issue was especially problematic for Atlas as a company that warehouses food products sold to grocery stores. Atlas collected DNA cheek swabs from employees Jack Lowe and Dennis Reynolds. A lab compared the DNA of the men to DNA from the feces and found no matches.

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A recent Sixth Circuit holding affirmed a federal district court’s ruling that an employer did not violate Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 by declining to hire a prospective employee because he refused to provide his social security number on religious grounds.

The plaintiff applied for an internship with the defendant, an energy company. However, he refused to provide his potential employer with a social security number. The plaintiff asserted that he did not have a social security number because he disavowed it upon turning 18 due to his sincere religious beliefs. When the defendant refused to hire him, he filed suit alleging religious discrimination in violation of the Civil Rights Act. The defendant filed a motion to dismiss for failure to state a valid legal claim pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6). The district court granted the motion.

A person who files a Civil Rights Act religious discrimination claim must prove three elements:

  1. There was an employment requirement that conflicts with a genuine religious belief held by the plaintiff;
  2. The plaintiff advised the employer of the belief; and
  3. The employer terminated or disciplined the plaintiff for refusing to comply with the employment requirement.

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The statute of limitations for a Georgia whistleblower action does not accrue until the employee receives a definitive or final determination about the alleged retaliatory action, the Court of Appeals of Georgia held late last year. This ruling helps public employees who have been wrongfully terminated by their employers prove their cases under the Georgia Whistleblower Statute.

The plaintiff in the case was the police chief for a public institution in the University of Georgia system. The school fired the plaintiff in late 2009 after several contentious issues that began in October 2008. One of these was school staff interfering in a criminal investigation that the plaintiff thought was in violation of Georgia law. In June 2009, school administrators asked the plaintiff to resign from his post once he found a new job or face immediate termination. He initially agreed to resign but later changed his mind. On November 19th 2009, the school delivered a letter of termination to the plaintiff. The plaintiff filed suit under the Georgia Whistleblower Statute for wrongful termination on November 10, 2010.

The defendant filed a motion for summary judgment contending, in part, that the the statute of limitations barred suit. It was granted by the trial court, but the Court of Appeals reversed.

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A broad set of protections, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits employment discrimination based on a number of factors, including race, color, religion, sex, and national origin. Over the past 50 years, courts and lawmakers have dedicated a lot of time to tweaking the law and figuring out how to apply it to situations that may be completely unique or reflective of society’s ever-evolving norms.

Recent months have proved to be no exception, with a number of continuing legal challenges arising under Title VII further defining the breadth and boundaries of the protection it offers. Around the country and even up to the US Supreme Court, Title VII litigation is making for some interesting decisions and debates. Here are some of the more noteworthy questions and revelations of late:

Volunteers aren’t entitled to Title VII protections from employment discrimination

This might strike some as obvious, since the very notion that one is a volunteer rather than a paid employee should be enough to draw a distinction. Numerous other recent suits brought by interns and independent contractors looking to confer employee status upon themselves, however, have blurred the lines more than before. As in those cases, a big question for the Sixth Circuit in Sister Michael Marie v. American Red Cross was the amount of control exercised over the means and manner of the volunteers’ performance.

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