In many Atlanta employment discrimination lawsuits, the employer makes an attempt to have the plaintiff’s case dismissed prior to trial via what is known as a “summary judgment” motion.
Summary judgment is appropriate only when the party seeking such relief is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Whether or not this is so revolves largely around the issue of whether there is anything that needs to be resolved by a jury as the trier of fact.
If the parties agree to the basic facts, the court may decide that summary judgment is appropriate. (It should be noted that both plaintiffs and defendants can file a motion for summary judgment, although the maneuver is much more common among defendants).
Facts of the Case
In a recent case, the plaintiff was a 55-year-old black woman who went to work for the defendant school district as an adaptive special education teacher in August 2016. When she was not rehired for the next school year and was replaced by a 26-year-old white male teacher, the plaintiff filed suit in federal court, asserting claims for discrimination based on her age, race, and sex. The defendant filed a motion for summary judgment.
The Federal District Court’s Decision
The United States District Court for the Middle District of Georgia, Athens Division, granted the defendant’s motion for summary judgment. The court began by stating the governing standard in deciding whether to dismiss a plaintiff’s complaint on summary judgment: dismissal is only appropriate if the moving party (here, the school district) has shown that there is not an genuine issue of material fact that needs to be decided by the trier of fact (typically, the jury). In deciding a summary judgment motion, the law requires the court to look at the evidence in the way that is most favorable to the nonmoving party and to draw any and all justifiable inferences in favor of the party opposing the motion. “Material” facts are those that are relevant or necessary to the outcome of the lawsuit at hand; “genuine” disputes are those in which a reasonable jury could (but not necessarily would) find in favor of the party against whom summary judgment is sought.
According to the federal district court, the defendant in the case at bar was entitled to summary judgment because there was no evidence that suggested that the defendant’s proffered reasons for the plaintiff’s termination were pretextual, no reasonable jury could conclude that the plaintiff’s coworkers’ conduct was so objectively severe or pervasive as to alter the conditions of her employment, the plaintiff could not establish a prima facie case with regard to her contract non-renewal claim, and the plaintiff’s age discrimination failed as a matter of law due to the defendant’s articulated, legitimate, nondiscriminatory reasons for not renewing the plaintiff’s contract.
Get Advice About Your Case from an Atlanta Employment Discrimination Attorney
Attorney John L. Mays at Parks, Chesin & Walbert handles many types of employment discrimination claims throughout the Atlanta area, including those arising from race or color discrimination, national original discrimination, age discrimination, disability discrimination, religious discrimination, and/or sex discrimination. To schedule a consultation to discuss your potential claim, call us at 404-873-8048.