Federal Court Strikes Pro Se Plaintiff’s “Reply” to Former Employer’s Answer to Employment Discrimination Claim

As seasoned Atlanta employment discrimination attorneys, we struggle to understand why anyone would choose to represent himself or herself in a lawsuit against a current or former employer. Perhaps, those who make such a dangerous and dubious decision do so because they simply do not know what they do not know.

Attorneys have many years of formal education and training regarding the thousands of statutes, ordinances, regulations, and court rules that could potentially apply to a given case, and they work very hard to stay current, as these laws are constantly changing and being reinterpreted by the courts.

A person who chooses to represent his or her own interests in state or federal employment law litigation is expected to know, understand, and apply the applicable legal principles in the same manner as would an attorney with years of experience in the field. Not surprisingly, most pro se cases end up being dismissed, often on procedural grounds.

Facts of the Case

The plaintiff in a recent case was a woman who alleged that the defendant auto parts store had discriminated against her in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act during the time that she worked as a sales representative. For reasons that were not explained in the court’s opinion, the plaintiff opted to proceed “pro se,” that is, without the assistance of an attorney. After the defendant filed an answer to the plaintiff’s complaint, the plaintiff attempted to file a “reply” to the answer. In response, the defendant filed a motion to strike the plaintiff’s ill-considered attempted pleading.

Meanwhile, the plaintiff filed several motions of her own, including a motion for judgment on the pleadings, a motion to submit evidence and summary into the record, and a motion for summary judgment. The defendant responded by asking the court to extend the deadline for it to respond to the plaintiff’s summary judgment motion, explaining to the court that the case was still in the midst of discovery and that the defendant had not yet been able to depose the plaintiff, obtain information from her third-party healthcare providers, or obtain documents she may have filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

The Court’s Response

The United States District Court for the Southern District of Georgia, Augusta Division, denied the plaintiff’s motion and granted both of the defendant’s motions. The court began by explaining, that there was no reason for the plaintiff to file her “reply,” as the defendant’s answer contained no counterclaims to which the plaintiff needed to respond. Absent a counterclaim denominated as such, a “reply” is considered both unnecessary and improper in federal practice.

The court also allowed the defendant additional time to the plaintiff’s motion for summary judgment, noting that the case was still in discovery. (Normally, motions for summary judgment are filed after discovery has taken place, not before.) After the essential issues of the case – whether the plaintiff was actually “disabled” as that term is defined in the Act, whether the defendant provided reasonable accommodations, and whether the defendant acted with discriminatory or retaliatory intent – were revealed through depositions, requests to produce, and other discovery efforts, the defendant also expected to seek summary judgment, and the court would rule upon both parties’ motion at that time.

Hire a Knowledgeable Atlanta Employment Discrimination Lawyer 

If you think you may have an employment discrimination claim against a current, former, or potential employer, you need to talk to an attorney who regularly handles these kinds of cases. Employment discrimination suits can be much more complex than they may initially appear, and it is important that such cases be handled by someone who knows the applicable laws and court rules. To schedule a free consultation about your case with a skillful and practiced Atlanta employment law attorney, call John L. Mays at the Parks, Chesin & Walbert law firm at 404-873-8048 today.

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