Georgia Man Fails to Convince Federal Court of Appeals that He Was the Victim of Unlawful Race Discrimination

Those who believe that they may have a valid Atlanta race discrimination lawsuit against a current, former, or potential employer have a limited time to take legal action. Failure to file the appropriate paperwork within the time allowed by law can result in a complete forfeiture of one’s legal rights.

Once the claim is filed, there are other requirements imposed upon the employee, including the burden of producing legally admissible evidence tending to show that he or she was the victim of unlawful discrimination due to his or her race or color. In turn, the employer is apt to present a different view of the case, one in which it had a legitimate, non-discriminatory reason for its adverse employment decision towards the plaintiff.

At that point, it is likely that the employer will seek summary judgment, that is, a pre-trial order establishing that it is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. If the motion is granted, the employee may then seek the review of the court of appeals. If the court of appeals holds differently than the trial court, the matter may be sent back to the trial court for further proceedings.

Facts of the Case

A recent federal appeals court case focused on a race-discrimination claim filed in the United States District Court for the Middle District of Georgia. In the suit, which was filed by an African-American man, the plaintiff alleged that his rights had been violated under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 when the defendant employer (a state prison) rescinded an offer of employment that it had previously extended to him and, in his place, promoted a white woman who had previously been in a part-time position with the defendant. The employer filed a motion in the trial court seeking summary judgment. The federal district court granted the motion over the employee’s objection. The employee appealed, seeking the review of the federal court of appeals.

Decision of the Appellate Court

The United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit affirmed. In resisting the plaintiff’s claim that it had unlawfully discriminated against him on account of his race, the defendant pointed out that, unbeknownst to it at the time that the plaintiff was initially offered a position of employment, the plaintiff had a criminal record. This information was not discovered until the plaintiff went to a new-hire orientation and completed certain paperwork. Additionally, the person who replaced the original hiring officer became privy to the plaintiff’s criminal history report, a document that the original hiring officer had not seen. After discovering that the plaintiff had been convicted of fleeing and eluding a law enforcement officer and that he had been sentenced to five months’ of probation, the defendant informed the plaintiff that his offered of employment was being rescinded because of a leadership directive prohibiting the hiring of applicants who had a record of probation.

The plaintiff insisted that he had made a prima facie case for race discrimination because the white woman who was hired in his place had also been on probation. However, both the district court and the appeals court observed that, at the time that she was hired, the defendant did know about her probation. Because the defendant was not aware of the white woman’s promotion when it decided to promote her rather than hire the plaintiff, the plaintiff and the white woman were not “sufficiently similar” in an objective sense. The court also found that the plaintiff’s “cat’s paw” theory of liability also failed, insomuch as the plaintiff had failed to provide evidence that the defendant’s actions were motivated by a discriminatory animus.

Talk to an Attorney For More Information About Filing a Race Discrimination Claim

Talking to an experienced Atlanta employment law attorney about a potential race or color discrimination claim is an important first step towards asserting your legal rights if you believe that your employer has acted illegally under Title VII or another state or federal employment law. For an appointment with Attorney John L. Mays or another member of the litigation team at Parks, Chesin & Walbert, call us now at 877-986-5529. We handle employment law cases throughout the greater Atlanta area.

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