Georgia Woman’s Age and Race Discrimination Lawsuit is Dismissed on Summary Judgment, Affirmed on Appeal

In most Atlanta employment discrimination lawsuits, the employee and the employer disagree sharply as to why the employer made an adverse employment decision, such as terminating, not hiring, or not promoting the employee. The employee believes the decision was based on an unlawful discriminatory reason, such as his or her age or race, while the employer may offer legally legitimate reasons for its actions, arguing that another candidate was more qualified, or the employee had a history of misconduct in the workplace. The courts are charged with deciding, based on the evidence offered by the respective parties, which version of events is more credible.

Facts of the Case

The plaintiff in a recent case was a white female who filed suit against the defendants, a county and the county’s school district, alleging that the school district had wrongfully refused to hire her as an assistant principal on account of her race and her age. The plaintiff had served as the dean of students at a charter school in the defendant county from 2013 until late 2014, when the school district abolished the plaintiff’s dean position and, in its place, created an assistant principal job. The plaintiff applied for the job of assistant principal, but she was not hired. Instead, a younger, African American woman was hired as assistant principal, and the plaintiff was transferred to a middle school art teacher job.

The school district filed a motion for summary judgment. The United States District Court for the Middle District of Georgia granted the defendant’s motion and entered summary judgment in its favor as to the plaintiff’s claims under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as well as her age discrimination claims. The plaintiff sought appellate review of the district court’s decision.

The Circuit Court’s Holding

The United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit affirmed the lower court’s ruling. According to the defendants on appeal, there was an important difference in the job that the plaintiff had held and the one that she applied for: the assistant principal position required an educational leadership certificate from a certain state standards commission, whereas the dean of students’ job did not. The defendants proffered two nondiscriminatory reasons for its hiring decision. The first was that the younger, African American woman possessed the necessary leadership certificate while the plaintiff did not. The second was that a local governing board recommended the younger, African American, and the school district’s practice was to accept such recommendations.

In reviewing the case, the appellate tribunal agreed with the lower court’s holding that, even if the plaintiff had established a prima facie case of unlawful employment discrimination, she has failed to show that both of the defendant’s proffered nondiscriminatory reasons were pretextual. Because the plaintiff had failed to carry her burden of proof in response to the summary judgment motion, it was appropriate for the lower court to rule in the defendants’ favor.

To Talk to Someone About Your Discrimination Claim

If you believe that your employer has discriminated against you due to your race, color, national origin, age, religion, gender, or disability, you need to act quickly in order to preserve your legal rights. Atlanta employment discrimination claimants have relatively short deadlines in which to assert their legal rights. The experienced employment law attorneys at Parks, Chesin & Walbert are here to help. Phone us at 877-986-5529 to schedule an appointment to learn more about how we may be able to help you seek justice in your case. Someone is always available to take your call, so please do not put off this important first step in seeking justice.