Federal Court in Georgia Lacked Jurisdiction to Grant Motion to Reconsider in Harassment Case

In an Atlanta employment law case asserting a claim for discrimination, harassment, or other wrongful conduct, it is important that a potential litigant consult a knowledgeable attorney who can help him or her file the appropriate paperwork within the time allowed by law. If this is not done, it is likely that the plaintiff’s case will be dismissed. Of course, simply filing a “complaint” is not, in and of itself, sufficient; it is important that the proper parties be identified and that a valid claim for relief be stated.

Facts of the Case

In a recent case, the plaintiff was a woman who filed multiple complaints against the defendant commissioner, alleging that she had been the victim of harassment and disparate treatment and that the defendant had failed to make appropriate accommodations for her under the Americans with Disabilities Act. The plaintiff’s first two complaints were dismissed as frivolous, after which the plaintiff filed a motion to reconsider in the first action. However, the plaintiff filed a notice of appeal before her motion was heard.

The plaintiff then filed a third case, asserting the same claims that she had asserted in her first two lawsuits. In the third suit, however, the plaintiff identified her former employer, rather than an employee, as a defendant, thus correcting the deficiency that had caused her first two cases to be dismissed.

Decision of the Court

The United States District Court for the Middle District of Georgia, Macon Division, began its discussion of the plaintiff’s motion to reconsider its decision in her first case by stating that there was some confusion as to the plaintiff’s arguments in support of her request. However, the court was able to determine that the plaintiff wanted to amend her first complaint to resolve the defect identified by the court.

In addressing this motion, the court noted that an employee had only 90 days to file a Title VII complaint after exhausting his or her administrative remedies. Here, the plaintiff’s first complaint was filed within this period, but the order of dismissal was mailed thereafter. Thus, the court’s order as to the plaintiff’s complaint was, in effect, a dismissal with prejudice because any subsequently filed complaint would most likely be dismissed for failure to comply with the 90-day limitations period. There being no clear record of delay or willful misconduct, the court stated that, in order to avoid the prejudicial effect of its prior order, it would be willing to grant the plaintiff’s motion so that she could amend her complaint.

However, because the plaintiff had already filed a notice of appeal, the court found itself without jurisdiction to enter such an order. Should the plaintiff opt to request that the appellate court remand her case to the district court, the court indicated that the plaintiff’s motion would be granted.

Contact an Atlanta Attorney

There are many procedural hurdles to overcome in employment law, discrimination, and harassment lawsuits. To speak to an experienced Atlanta sexual harassment attorney about your claim, please call John L. Mays at Parks, Chesin & Walbert at 404-873-8048 and ask for an appointment. Keep in mind that untimely claims will be dismissed by the court, so it is important to seek legal counsel as soon as possible.

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What Conduct Is (And Is Not) Grounds for a Federal Title VII Action in Georgia

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