Employment Discrimination Lawsuits in Georgia Must Be Properly Worded or Risk Dismissal

The process of filing an Atlanta employment discrimination claim can be a complex endeavor. For those who are not familiar with the legal system, there are likely to be many questions. “Where do I file my claim? How long do I have to take legal action? What, specifically, do I need to say in my pleadings?” When a claim is not properly filed or does not contain the necessary allegations, the court is likely to dismiss the plaintiff’s case. When a case is dismissed, this usually means that the plaintiff’s case is “dead.” Unless an appellate court overturns the ruling, the plaintiff will not receive any compensation from the defendant, nor will the employer be ordered to reinstate the plaintiff to his or her position.

Facts of the Case

The plaintiff in a recent employment discrimination lawsuit was an adjunct professor at the defendant college. He filed suit against the college and its board of trustees, alleging that the defendants had engaged in racially discriminatory hired practices by preferentially hiring Hispanic applicants for its physician assistant program in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

The college filed a motion to dismiss the plaintiff’s complaint on the ground that he had failed to state a claim. The plaintiff then filed several amended complaints, each of which essentially reiterated his allegations in the original complaint.¬†Ultimately, the federal district dismissed the plaintiff’s case, and he appealed.

The Appellate Court’s Decision

The United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit affirmed the lower court’s dismissal of the plaintiff’s case. Although the plaintiff argued that the district court had erred in dismissing his amended complaint as a “shotgun pleading,” as well as in some of its decisions regarding discovery in the case, the reviewing court found no reason to disturb the lower court’s ruling. According to the appellate court, the discovery arguments lacked merit, and the shotgun pleading issue had essentially been abandoned on appeal.

In so holding, the court first noted that its review of the trial court’s dismissal of the plaintiff’s case was based on an “abuse of discretion” standard. In determining whether an issue was abandoned on appeal, the question was whether the party had plainly and prominently identified the issues or claims that he or she purported to raise during the appellate process. In agreeing with the lower court that the plaintiff’s amended complaints amounted to shotgun pleadings, the court explained that such pleadings contained multiple counts that adopted the allegations of all preceding counts, were replete with conclusory, vague, and immaterial facts, did not properly separate claims for relief, and/or named multiple defendants without specifying which claims pertained to which defendants.

On appeal, the plaintiff had effectively abandoned the “shotgun pleading” argument and, instead, focused his appellate arguments on discovery. In the court’s view, even if the college had made certain failures during discovery, this did not cure or excuse the plaintiff’s faulty pleadings.

Hire an Employment Discrimination Lawyer

If you believe that you have a discrimination claim against a current, former, or potential employer because of unlawful termination, failure to promote, or failure to hire, you should talk to an experienced Atlanta employment discrimination lawyer. For an appointment to discuss your case with a member of the Parks, Chesin & Walbert legal team, call us at 877-986-5529. We also handle sexual harassment and hostile work environment cases, wage and hour matters, and claims involving violation of the Family and Medical Leave Act.