Federal Appeals Court Rules on Race and Age Discrimination Claim Relevant to Georgia Employees

It is unlawful for an employer to take adverse employment action against a worker (or would-be worker) based on matters such as age, sex, race, or disability. An employee who is aggrieved by such conduct should consult an Atlanta employment discrimination attorney about the possibility of filing an employment discrimination claim with the appropriate governmental agency (such as the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) or court.

Remedies that may be available in such cases include injunctive relief, reinstatement, lost wages, and other money damages. The plaintiff has the initial burden of proving discrimination in such cases. As the case progresses, the defendant employer may allege that it has a legitimate reason for its actions. The plaintiff must then show that this reason was “pretext” rather than a true, lawful reason for the conduct at issue.

Facts of the Case

In a recent unpublished federal appeals court case, the plaintiff was a 52-year-old African American woman who worked  as a school secretary/registrar for the defendant school board for approximately two years. After her contract was not renewed and she was unable to find other work in the school district, the plaintiff filed suit in federal district court, alleging claims for racial discrimination in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. §§ 2000e, et seq., 42 U.S.C. § 1981, and 42 U.S.C. § 1983; age discrimination in violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, 29 U.S.C. §§ 621–34 (ADEA); and retaliation in violation of Title VII, § 1981, and the ADEA.

The federal district court granted summary judgment to the defendant. The plaintiff appealed the trial court’s decision as it related to her race and age discrimination claims.

The Appeals Court’s Decision

The United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit affirmed the lower court’s order granting summary judgment to the defendant. The court began by noting that the defendant had provided evidence to the effect that, after having been counseled that her punctuality needed improvement (according to her time card records, she was late to work 87% of the time), she was late 10 of the next 13 days, thus leading to the decision not to rehire her for the following school year. Under these facts, the lower court had found that the plaintiff did not present a prima facie case of racial discrimination because she did not provide proper comparators, nor could she fulfill her burden of proof on her failure to hire claim based on impermissible race and age discrimination.

Given that the plaintiff had presented only a pretext case and claimed that unlawful bias was the real reason that she was terminated, the reviewing court agreed that summary judgment to the defendant was proper. Without evidence that others who were similarly situated were treated differently, the plaintiff’s case for discrimination failed. Although the plaintiff had offered evidence of other employees whom she alleged were comparable to her, the appeals court pointed out that none of these workers had to have their desks covered at all times of the workday like the plaintiff did. Given that desk coverage was critical to her job and another employee had to fill in for her when she was late, the plaintiff could not establish a prima facie case of unlawful discrimination in violation of federal law under the circumstances.

Atlanta Discrimination Attorneys Reviewing Cases

There are many steps in an employment discrimination lawsuit, and it is important that a worker who believes that he or she has been the victim of unlawful race discrimination or age discrimination be represented by counsel as soon as possible. To talk to a knowledgeable Georgia employment law attorney about your situation, please call Parks, Chesin & Walbert today at 404-873-8048 or contact us through this website.

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