A pair of minority employees at a jail in Georgia lost the chance to go to trial on their claims that their employer committed racial discrimination and then retaliated against them when they filed formal complaints about the misconduct, due to their timing for suing their employer. The US District Court for the Middle District of Georgia decided that the employees’ claims were not filed within the period of time required by the law, so the case could not proceed.
The employees in this case were Justin Ramzy and Alicia Spearman, who worked as part of the medical team in the Muscogee County Jail. The employees, both of whom were African-American, suffered what they believed was racial discrimination at work. After Ramzy and Spearman filed a complaint about the discrimination in 2012, Ramzy was terminated the next year for violating medical team protocol regarding the recording of patient medical information. Ramzy claimed that other white employees did the same thing but weren’t punished. Spearman produced documents that backed up Ramzy’s claim.
Spearman was barred from pursuing two promotions in 2013 that ultimately went to white candidates who, she claimed, were less qualified than she was. By late September 2013, she too had been terminated. Both employees sued in January 2015, alleging that their employer violated Title VII and the Georgia Whistleblower Act. The employer asked the trial court to award summary judgment in its favor, and the court did so.
What went wrong to unravel the employees’ case? In a word: timing. Title VII imposes some strict deadlines regarding when an employee who is an alleged victim of discrimination must act. One of the these deadlines demands that an employee file his or her lawsuit within 90 days of receiving a “right to sue” letter from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
In Ramzy and Spearman’s case, each employee received a “right to sue” letter from the EEOC stating that it was mailed on September 30, 2014. The employees claimed that they did not get their letters until October 4. However, they did not file their lawsuit until January 5, 2015, so, even if the court accepted their October 4 date, they were still too late. Using the September 30 date, the lawsuit was filed on Day 97. Using the employees’ date, it was Day 93. Either way, it was past the deadline, and that delay of just a few days was enough to prevent their Title VII case from ever being heard.
The employees’ Whistleblower Act claim suffered from a similar problem. That law requires a harmed employee to sue within one year of the alleged violation. All of the acts of retaliation the employer allegedly committed took place in 2013. Given that the lawsuit was filed in 2015, the acts were clearly more than one year old. That meant that the Whistleblower Act claim, like the Title VII claim, was filed too late.
The unfortunate end to the employees’ case points out the high degree of importance of ensuring strict compliance with all deadlines demanded by Title VII and the Georgia Whistleblower Act. To make sure your case is in compliance with all deadlines and other procedural requirements, rely on the experienced and diligent Georgia employment discrimination attorneys at Parks, Chesin & Walbert. They have the skills and knowledge you need to ensure your rights are asserted.
To speak with one of our lawyers about your case, call 404-873-8048.
More blog posts:
Georgia Whistleblower Plaintiffs Must Receive Definitive Decision of Termination to Trigger Statute of Limitations, Atlanta Employment Attorneys Blog, Jan. 21, 2015
Privacy, Prying, and Productivity: Balancing Online Access at Work, Atlanta Employment Attorneys Blog, Nov. 26, 2014