Articles Posted in Employment Law

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 In 2010, the plaintiff signed a new employment agreement, which superseded the 2008 agreement.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.

Continue reading ›

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.

Continue reading ›

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.

Continue reading ›

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.

Continue reading ›

In order to establish liability in an Atlanta wrongful termination case based on retaliation, the employee must be able to show that he or she engaged in protected activity, that he or she suffered an adverse employment action, and that there was a causal relationship between the protected activity and the adverse action.

In a recent case, a public employee alleged that he had been fired for making statements that were protected by the First Amendment. The city that previously employed the plaintiff in that case disagreed, however, asserting that the statements in questions were made in the employee’s professional – not personal – capacity. While there are some situations in which an employee’s termination for speech made during the course of his or her employee might be considered unlawful, both the district court and the appellate court agreed that such was not the case.

Factual Allegations

The United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit (the same circuit that hears appeals from federal district courts in Georgia) recently decided a case involving allegations that a city employee (a former fire chief) had been retaliated against after he attempted to enforce fire safety rules at an historic building owned by persons with political connections to city government. In the suit, the plaintiff sought relief under the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution, as well as a state whistleblower statute. The plaintiff initially filed his lawsuit in state court, but it was removed to federal court by the defendant city.

Continue reading ›

The need for quality legal representation when dealing with matters such as an Atlanta employment discrimination case cannot be overstated. While a plaintiff does, technically, have the right to self-representation, this is never a good idea.

The same rules, laws, and procedures apply to those representing themselves as apply to professionally trained and highly skilled legal advocates who earn their living in the courtroom. Attorneys spend years learning the law and must take a rigorous bar examination in order to be licensed to represent others in legal matters. The law, including state and federal statutes regarding employment law, is ever evolving, and it can be challenging to keep up with the latest developments even for experienced counsel. Someone who is not professionally educated in the law is at a serious disadvantage.

Facts of the Case

The plaintiff in a recent federal appellate case was a woman who filed suit against the defendant highway patrol department and her former supervisor, asserting claims for civil rights violations and employment discrimination during events that occurred in 2005 and/or 2006. The trial court dismissed the woman’s complaint, holding that her claims were barred by the statute of limitations, res judicata (two previous lawsuits concerning the same conduct had previously been dismissed), and sovereign immunity. The plaintiff sought review from the court of appeals.

Continue reading ›

Employees who believe that they have been discriminated against due to age by a current, former, or potential employer may assume that they will eventually have their day in court if they file an Atlanta age discrimination claim.

While the United States Constitution does guarantee the right to a jury trial in some situations, the right to have a jury determine the issues in a civil case is not universal. For one thing, an employee many be asked to forfeit his or her right to a jury trial as a condition of employment.

If the worker signs an arbitration agreement prior to going to work for a certain employer, it is highly likely that any disputes between the parties will eventually be settled through arbitration rather than litigation.

Continue reading ›

Last week, we told you about a Georgia retaliatory discharge claim. A woman was allegedly fired in response to her husband (who worked for the same employer) speaking out against workplace discrimination of a job applicant. As that case explained, the husband, too, had filed a claim against the employer, attempting to assert a claim under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. The outcome of the wife’s case hinged on her husband’s case, insomuch as he was the primary actor against whom the alleged retaliation was directed.

Facts of the Case

In the husband’s companion case, he alleged that he was the vice president of sales and marketing of the defendant company in 2017 when an advertising manager resigned. A woman who worked for a local media group expressed interest in the job. Ultimately, she met with the plaintiff and submitted a resume to his wife, who worked in human resources.  Unfortunately, the woman’s appearance (she was allegedly wearing tight, rather revealing clothing during the meeting) became a quick topic of discussion in the workplace. After a co-worker called the woman “a whore” and suggested that management would never allow a “bombshell like that” to work there, the plaintiff insisted that discrimination based on the woman’s appearance would be unlawful. (In opposition to the version of events presented by the plaintiff, the defendant company offered testimony by other employees who testified that they had been embarrassed by the plaintiff’s comments about the “well endowed” and “very, very, very well built” job applicant.)

Ultimately, the plaintiff and his wife were both terminated from their employment, and the plaintiff was issued a notice of suit rights by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. After the plaintiff filed a lawsuit in federal court, the defendant filed a motion for summary judgment.

Continue reading ›

The Americans with Disabilities Act was enacted with the purpose of ending discrimination against individuals with disabilities by making it unlawful for employers to discriminate against a qualified individual on the basis of disability.

In order to assert a claim under the Act, a plaintiff must be able to prove that he or she is disabled, is a qualified individual, and was subjected to unlawful discrimination due to his or her disability.

If you believe that you have a claim under the Act, you should talk to an Atlanta disability discrimination attorney about filing a claim. There are time limits in such cases, and it is important that you assert your legal rights in a timely fashion.

Continue reading ›

When a veteran employee is suddenly let go from a job, it is not unusual for him or her to at least consider the possibility of filing an Atlanta employment discrimination claim. This is especially so if the employee believes that he or she was unlawfully let go based on a disability or because of his or her age, race, gender, or religion.

Those who think they may have an employment discrimination claim should talk to an attorney as soon as possible, as there are deadlines in such cases that, if not complied with, may result in dismissal of the employee’s claims when they are eventually filed.

Facts of the Case

In a recent case, the plaintiff was a female African-American police detective who was abruptly terminated by the defendant city after 10 years of service. The chief of police of the city was also named as a defendant in the suit. The “ostensible reason” for the termination was that the plaintiff was absent without leave. However, the defendant had, only a few days prior to the termination, placed the plaintiff on indefinite administrative leave pending resolution of the issue of whether or not she could safely be subjected to a Taser Shock or exposed to pepper spray, given her physical condition (she suffered a heart attack in 2009).

Continue reading ›