Part of Georgia Employee’s Employment Law Claim is Dismissed Due to Failure to Exhaust Administrative Remedies

Filing an Atlanta employment law claim can be a complicated endeavor. Unlike many other types of cases, there may be pre-filing requirements that, if not complied with, can result in a claim be dismissed later on.

If you believe that your employer has violated state or federal law, it is important to talk to an experienced attorney about your situation as soon as possible. An attorney can explain your legal rights, help you investigate your case, and make sure all the appropriate paperwork is filed in a timely manner.

Facts of the Case

In a recent case, the plaintiff was a woman who went to work as an employee financial representative for the defendant company in 2013 and had exemplary job performance for her first two years of employment. After witnessing her husband commit suicide in 2015, however, the plaintiff’s work performance suffered because she was grief-stricken and emotionally raw. According to the plaintiff’s complaint, a few months after her husband’s death, the plaintiff reportedly requested an accommodation, but both her manager and his supervisor refused her request. Thereafter, the plaintiff was granted short-term disability leave. About a year later, the plaintiff was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder. Her work performance continued to deteriorate, her requests for a transfer to a different office were denied, and she was eventually terminated.

The plaintiff filed suit in federal court, alleging violations of the American with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Fair Labor Standards Act. The defendant filed a motion to dismiss the portion of the plaintiff’s claim pertaining to the defendant’s alleged failure-to accommodate, arguing that the plaintiff had failed to exhaust her administrative remedies as to this claim.

The Court’s Decision

The United States District Court, Middle District of Georgia, Macon Division, granted the defendant’s motion to dismiss the plaintiff’s failure-to-accommodate claim. The court began by acknowledging that the plaintiff’s amended complaint attempted to assert claims for failure to accommodate, disability discrimination, failure to pay minimum wage, and failure to pay overtime. The court went on to point out that a plaintiff who seeks legal recourse under the ADA must first exhaust his or her administrative remedies before filing suit in federal court. This is done through filing a charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) within the time set by law for such claims. A plaintiff’s alleged failure to exhaust his or her non-judicial remedies raises a matter in abatement, just as do matters concerning jurisdiction, venue, and the like.

Here, the plaintiff filed a timely charge with the EEOC. According to the plaintiff, the allegations in that charge “reasonably related” to her failure-t0-accommodate claim such that the EEOC investigation should have uncovered the defendant’s failure to accommodate. The court, however, agreed with the defendant’s assertion that the plaintiff’s allegations in the EEOC matter were not reasonably related to the failure-to-accommodate that the plaintiff attempted to assert in her complaint in federal court. In the court’s view, neither the facts in the plaintiff’s EEOC charge nor anything in the EEOC’s file suggested that the plaintiff had requested an accommodation for her disability. Thus, the court found that the defendant’s motion to dismiss this part of the plaintiff’s lawsuit for failure to exhaust her administrative remedies was well-founded.

Retain an Employment Law Attorney in Atlanta

Atlanta employment law cases are difficult. There are many “hoops” to jump through, and a mistake in following court procedure can be fatal to an otherwise valid and potentially valuable claim. Attorney John L. Mays at the Parks, Chesin & Walbert law firm in Atlanta is here to help. To schedule an appointment, call us now at 404-873-8048.

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