Articles Posted in Employment Law

Employers may engage in a variety of improper actions when it comes to your requesting, using, or returning from leave to which you are entitled under the Family and Medical Leave Act. This misconduct can range from erecting onerous and unnecessary documentation requirements to counting your FMLA leave against for purposes of punitive “occurrence-based” attendance policies, just to name two. If you’ve encountered an employer making things needlessly difficult or otherwise punishing you for seeking or using FMLA leave, that potentially counts as interference, which is against the law. An experienced FMLA interference lawyer can help you assess how best to proceed based on the facts of your situation.

That issue of FMLA interference came up once again in a recent case from the federal courts. The employee, J.P., worked at a paper mill that had an occurrence-based attendance policy.

From December 2017 to August 2018, J.P. took three periods of FMLA leave. That last period ended on August 5. On August 6, J.P. returned to work. The next day, however, an operations manager told him to leave and to return with a “medical release” from his physician. J.P. did as instructed and, as a result, the employer counted his leaving work early on August 7 as a separate and additional occurrence.

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Sometimes, some people can lull themselves into a false sense of confidence when it comes to litigating their unpaid overtime, minimum wage, improper classification, or other Fair Labor Standards Act case. They may tell themselves they don’t need an experienced Atlanta employment lawyer. They might say to themselves “I worked 40 hours each week and I only got paid $200 per week, so how hard can it be to present — and win — my minimum wage case?”

Don’t let yourself fall into this trap. Even cases that seem to have very clear-cut facts in your favor often present thorny issues of law and/or court procedure that require (or at least can benefit from) the deft touch knowledgeable legal representation will provide.

Take, for example, the FLSA case of H.T., a man who worked as a builder/installer for a South Georgia construction company. The construction company allegedly “controlled all aspects” of the builder’s work, including choosing the construction sites where the builder worked and assigning the tasks the builder completed while there. The company also set the builder’s work schedule, provided him with all the necessary materials and equipment, and controlled the amount of payment the builder received, according to H.T.’s lawsuit.

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No one should, as a worker, have to choose between their job and speaking out when they see discrimination or sexual harassment in the workplace. Too many times, though, speaking out does lead to workplace punishment. When that happens to you, it is possible that your employer has engaged in illegal retaliation, so you should get in touch with a knowledgeable Atlanta employment lawyer to learn more about the legal options that may exist for you.

P.P. alleged in her Title VII case that that was exactly what happened to her. She worked as a supervisory employee for a burger restaurant in Atlanta where the owner-franchisee was the higher ranking person and the general manager was second in command.

One day in November 2018, the supervisor allegedly saw the general manager grope a male worker, but P.P. didn’t confront the manager. When the owner learned about the incident elsewhere, she began her own investigation during which she interviewed P.P. The supervisor told the owner what she saw and offered to provide a written statement.

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In an Atlanta employment retaliation case, the plaintiff must show a certain kind of connection to the defendant – and to the violation of the law that allegedly occurred – in order to move forward with his or her case. Sometimes, this is an easy and obvious step of the litigation process.

Other times, the battle is more difficult. Unless the plaintiff can make this necessary connection, his or her case is likely to fail.

Facts of the Case

In a recent federal case, the plaintiffs were family members of a woman who worked for the defendant bank during the year 2008. The woman was employed as a personal assistant to the bank’s president and CEO during that time. After she was fired, she filed a charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), alleging that the president/CEO had sexually harassed her and then retaliated against her for complaining about the harassment. The gravamen of the plaintiffs’ complaint against the defendant bank was that it had taken adverse action against them in retaliation for the former employee’s protected conduct. (The plaintiffs had various business relationships with the defendant.)

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In attempting to assert an Atlanta employment law claim, it important that the plaintiff include the appropriate allegations and requests for relief. Sometimes, however, more information becomes available as the case develops, such that a plaintiff may attempt to file an “amended complaint” to include the new information or an updated demand for relief.

Depending upon the court rules and the status of the proceedings, the plaintiff may or may not need the court’s permission to file an amended complaint. Likewise, the defendant may wish to alter its answer. A timely request to amend the pleadings is important, regardless of whether it is the plaintiff or the defendant who is making the request.

An amended pleading may appear to give the parties more than a single “bite at the apple,” so to speak. However, there are limitations on what can be accomplished via an amendment, as rules such as the statute of limitations still apply.

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Generally speaking, the person who files an Atlanta employment law case gets choose the court (state or federal) in which the matter will ultimately be tried. However, there are some situations in which this is not so.

For instance, the employee may choose to file his or her lawsuit in state court, only to have the employer remove the case to federal court based on diversity of citizenship jurisdiction. (Sometimes, it is possible to have the federal court send the matter back to state court (although this is the exception, not the rule).)

As for the reasons for choosing state court instead of federal court (or wanting a case removed to federal court after it has been filed in state court), the reasons tend to be very specific to an individual situation. In one case, there may be a belief that one court or the other may yield a result that is more favorable, or it could be that one court has a lengthy backlog of cases such that it will take substantially longer to get to trial. Location and convenience (or the added expense of inconvenience) may also factor in.

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In an Atlanta employment discrimination case, there is a relatively short window for the filing of a complaint against the offending employer. If this requirement is not met, the plaintiff’s case will likely fail.

Thus, an important first step in holding an employer accountable under the law is to consult an attorney who can help you get started on your claim. An individual who is not represented by counsel is at a huge disadvantage in court, as it is almost guaranteed that the employer will be represented by legal counsel who is well-versed in the laws and procedures applicable in these types of cases.

Facts of the Case

In an employment discrimination case filed in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Georgia, Savannah Division, the plaintiff averred that she had been discriminated against by the defendants (a state board of regents and her former supervisor), on account of her gender in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. According to the plaintiff, she relocated from one campus to another but continued to experience discrimination in the terms and conditions of her employment. Consequently, the plaintiff filed a charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). She received a right to sue notice on November 21, 2017. She then filed suit against the defendants in federal district court on February 20, 2018. Later, the parties filed a stipulation of dismissal without prejudice, ending the plaintiff’s cause of action on July 29, 2019. Notably, the plaintiff was not represented by counsel at that time.

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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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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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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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