Georgia Police Officer’s Employment Discrimination Claims Should Have Survived Summary Judgment

When a veteran employee is suddenly let go from a job, it is not unusual for him or her to at least consider the possibility of filing an Atlanta employment discrimination claim. This is especially so if the employee believes that he or she was unlawfully let go based on a disability or because of his or her age, race, gender, or religion.

Those who think they may have an employment discrimination claim should talk to an attorney as soon as possible, as there are deadlines in such cases that, if not complied with, may result in dismissal of the employee’s claims when they are eventually filed.

Facts of the Case

In a recent case, the plaintiff was a female African-American police detective who was abruptly terminated by the defendant city after 10 years of service. The chief of police of the city was also named as a defendant in the suit. The “ostensible reason” for the termination was that the plaintiff was absent without leave. However, the defendant had, only a few days prior to the termination, placed the plaintiff on indefinite administrative leave pending resolution of the issue of whether or not she could safely be subjected to a Taser Shock or exposed to pepper spray, given her physical condition (she suffered a heart attack in 2009).

The plaintiff filed suit in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia, asserting that the defendant had unlawfully discriminated against her due to her disability, race, and/or gender. She sought back pay, damages, and reinstatement of her position. On motion of the defendant, the district court dismissed the plaintiff’s suit on summary judgment.

Decision of the Court

The United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit affirmed the lower court to the extent that its order dismissed the plaintiff’s claims under U.S.C. § 1981 and the Equal Protection clause but reversed the decision in all other respects, thereby remanding the case to the district court for further proceedings. In considering the evidence that had been before the district court, the circuit court found that several different conclusions could have been reached by the trier of fact: that the plaintiff was fired because she was regarded as disabled, that she was fired because she was shirking to avoid Taser shock or pepper spray  and had enlisted her doctor’s help in doing so, or that the plaintiff’s firing was influenced by her race or her gender.

According to the circuit court, the ultimate decision in the case was best left to a properly instructed jury who had seen the witnesses and heard the evidence. Thus, summary judgment was inappropriate in all but two of the plaintiff’s claims against the defendant. In so holding, the court noted that, at the time of her termination, the plaintiff had been placed on unpaid, indefinite administrative leave and not been given any deadlines regarding the filing of certain paperwork (nor was there a written policy regarding same).

Do You Have Questions for an Atlanta Employment Law Attorney?

To schedule a consultation to discuss your recent termination with a seasoned Atlanta employment discrimination lawyer, call Attorney John L. Mays at Parks, Chesin & Walbert at 404-873-8048 today.

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