Articles Posted in Retaliation

There has been a trend in recent years for certain defendants, including some employers accused of discrimination and retaliatory action in the workplace, to seek arbitration, rather than litigation of Atlanta employment discrimination cases. While there are some situations in which arbitration might be an acceptable alternative to litigation, most plaintiffs prefer to have their day in court. Sometimes, it is necessary to fight for this right, especially when paperwork has allegedly been signed agreeing to arbitration as a condition of employment. In disputed cases, it is up to the court to decide which remedy is appropriate.

Facts of the Case

In a recent unpublished decision from the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit, the plaintiff was a man who had worked two short terms as a seasonal employee of the defendant store (both terms of employment occurred during October through January, one in 2015-2016, and the other in 2016-2017). According to the plaintiff’s complaint, he sought permanent employment with the defendant, but this request was denied, as were his other attempts to become a regular, full-time employee of the defendant.

The plaintiff filed suit in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia, asserting that the defendant had refused to engage him in regular employment due to his race, gender, age, and national origin, as well as in retaliation for allegations of discrimination that he made during his seasonal employment. The defendant filed a motion to compel arbitration based on arbitration clauses that the plaintiff allegedly accepted during the outset of his periods of seasonal employment. The district court granted the motion, and the plaintiff appealed.

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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.

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It is rare that both sides of a Georgia employment discrimination lawsuit agree on the facts leading up to the case. Very often, the employee believes that he or she was unlawfully fired, not promoted, demoted, etc. based on his or her age, gender, race, or disability, while the employer insists that the adverse employment action was based on other, legally acceptable reasons. The issue then becomes whether a termination or other adverse employment decision was based on “legitimate, non-discriminatory reasons” or whether the decision was based on factors (such as age or face) that, under state and federal law, should not be part of the decision process in the workplace. When these two sides conflict, either the trial court will grant summary judgment to one party based on the other side’s inability to produce sufficient evidence to prove that there are genuine issues of material fact regarding one or more claims, or the case will proceed to a jury trial.

Facts of the Case

In a recent case, the plaintiff was a counselor who filed suit against the defendants, a state university’s board of regents and the director of the university’s counseling center, asserting that she had been the victim of unlawful discrimination. More specifically, the plaintiff alleged that the defendants discriminated against her when they forced her to resign from her employment after she developed multiple health problems following a stroke-like incident in 2015, rather than be terminated.

In her complaint, filed after receiving a notice of the right to sue letter from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the plaintiff sought legal redress for disability discrimination, retaliation, and failure to accommodate under the Rehabilitation Act and Americans with Disabilities Act. She also sought relief under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for the defendants’ alleged violation of her First Amendment rights. The plaintiff’s First Amendment claims were brought against the director in her individual capacity, but all of her other claims were against the university and the director in her official capacity.

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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.

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Under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e, et seq., it is unlawful for an employer to discriminate against a worker because he or she has opposed an unlawful employment practice. (An employer is also prohibited from discrimination in retaliation for a worker’s formal charge or participation in the investigation of an allegedly unlawful employment practice).

In many Atlanta retaliatory discharge cases, the employer is quick to file a motion alleging that the plaintiff cannot provide adequate evidence to support his or her claim. In order to survive such a motion, the plaintiff must be able to show that he or she participated in an activity that was protected by law, that there was a materially adverse employment action against him or her, and that there was a causal connection between the activity and the adverse action.

Facts of the Case

The plaintiff in a recent employment law case was a woman who was terminated from the defendant company’s employment in 2017. She filed multiple charges with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and was issued a notice of suit rights a few months thereafter. The gravamen of the plaintiff’s complaint was that the defendant had fired her in retaliation for her husband reporting that the defendant had allegedly discriminated against an attractive female job applicant who came into the defendant’s office in what some workers characterized as unprofessional attire. (The plaintiff’s husband was also employed by the defendant employer during the relevant time period.)

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When someone files an Atlanta employment discrimination lawsuit based on an alleged act of race, color, gender, or religion in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e to 2000e-17, he or she must be able to establish that the defendant employer discriminated against him or her in the terms and conditions of his or her employment and that the plaintiff’s race, color, religion, or sex was a motivating factor in the defendant’s decision(s) concerning the plaintiff’s employment.

Motions for summary judgment are often filed by the defendant in employment discrimination lawsuits. If summary judgment is granted, all or part of the plaintiff’s claims are dismissed. If the motion is denied, the plaintiff’s case proceeds toward trial.

Facts of the Case

In a recent federal case, the plaintiff was a 56-year-old, dark-skinned, black Christian male who alleged that he had been the victim of unlawful employment discrimination and that he had been retaliated against for complaining about this unlawful discrimination. He filed suit against the defendant employer in the United States District Court for the Middle District of Georgia, Columbus Department, seeking legal redress for the defendant’s failure to pay him for three day of work that he missed while he was on jury duty even though it paid a black woman for her time on jury duty; his supervisor’s failure to grant him religious accommodations on Sundays; certain “negative comments” by his supervisor following his complaint to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission; and his termination the following month.

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In an Atlanta race discrimination lawsuit, the initial burden of proving wrongful conduct – such as a termination allegedly based on race or color – rests on the plaintiff.

If the plaintiff makes an acceptable showing of discrimination, the defendant is then given an opportunity to argue that the plaintiff’s termination (or other adverse employment action) was based on a legitimate reason rather than on the employee’s race, color, gender, age, etc.

When an employer offers what appears to be a legitimate reason for its conduct towards the employee, the burden then shifts back to the employee to show that the employer’s purported reason for its action was merely pretextual.

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In an Atlanta employment discrimination lawsuit, a plaintiff may have several potential claims. Some of these may be claims under federal law, and some may be state law claims. In some situations, the defendants may include both a corporate or government employer and one or more individuals.

It is not unusual for some or all of the defendants in an employment discrimination or retaliation case to seek dismissal of the claims pending them prior to trial. It is up to the trial court to determine which claims are viable if such a motion is filed.

Facts of the Case

In a recent case, the plaintiff was a civilian employee of the United States Army. In his suit against the Secretary of the Army, his former supervisor, and the deputy garrison commander, the plaintiff alleged that he had been subjected to unlawful employment discrimination due to his gender, age, national origin, and disabilities and that he had been retaliated against due to his complaints of unlawful discrimination. He sought legal redress under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e – 2000e17; Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 12101 – 12117;  the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, 29 U.S.C. §§ 621 – 634; and Georgia state law.
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In an Atlanta employment discrimination case, the burden of proof rests on the plaintiff. In order to succeed at trial, the plaintiff must be able to prove each and every element of his or her case. Of course, the defendant in such a case is often quick to seek dismissal of the plaintiff’s lawsuit, sometimes before the discovery process has even begun. In some situations, dismissal of a particular complaint is warranted, but, more often, it is not.

Facts of the Case

In a recent employment discrimination case filed in federal court, the plaintiff was an African-American woman who began working for the defendant college in 2017. According to the plaintiff’s complaint, she was bullied at work and subjected to a hostile work environment. Approximately six weeks after she began her employment, the defendant terminated the plaintiff, allegedly verbally telling her that she was “just not a good fit” and then mailing her a letter stating that her discharge was due to her “failure to perform job duties as assigned.”

Thereafter, the plaintiff filed a charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, asserting claims of race discrimination, retaliation, bullying, and harassment by a co-worker. Presumably after that proceeding had been completed, the plaintiff filed suit against the defendant in federal court, asserting similar claims. The defendant filed a motion to dismiss the plaintiff’s complaint.
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An Atlanta employment lawsuit can arise from an employer’s alleged violation of several different state and federal laws, including both the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Family Medical Leave Act.

However, it should be pointed out that the plaintiff has the burden of proving each and every element of his or her case, which can sometimes be a difficult task.

Of course, each case is decided upon its own merits, so the fact that the plaintiff in a particular case was unsuccessful in his or her quest for legal redress should not discourage a would-be litigant from asserting his or her own legal rights in a separate suit.

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