Pregnancy Discrimination Claim Fails, According to Federal Circuit Court That Also Hears Appeals from Georgia Employment Law Cases

There are certain types of discrimination that are unlawful in the workplace. This includes discrimination based upon gender, age, and race, as well as discrimination against someone simply because she is pregnant.

An Atlanta employment discrimination lawsuit is one way for an employee to seek money damages and other legal remedies in such a situation.

Of course, not every such claim is successful. In some cases, the employer may offer proof of a nondiscriminatory reason for an adverse employment decision that impacted the employee, in which case it is typically up to the jury to decide which party’s version of events is more credible.

Facts of the Case

In a recent (unpublished) case considered on appeal by the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit, the plaintiff was a woman who was terminated from her employment by the defendant grocery store after she took maternity leave in 2009. The plaintiff filed suit in federal district court in 2011, asserting a claim for pregnancy discrimination in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

The defendant sought summary judgment, but its motion was denied. The case proceeded to a jury trial. After the jury entered a defense verdict, the plaintiff sought a new trial on the basis that the verdict was contrary to the weight of the evidence and/or that the court had many errors with regard to its evidentiary rulings. The plaintiff also argued that the court had failed to properly instruct the jury as to the meaning of the term “adverse employment action.” The district court denied the plaintiff’s motion, and she appealed.

Disposition on Appeal

The court of appeals affirmed the district court’s denial of the plaintiff’s motion for a new trial, as well as its entry of a final judgment in favor of the defendant on the plaintiff’s pregnancy discrimination claim in accordance with the jury’s verdict. According to the court, there was substantial evidence to support the jury’s conclusion that the plaintiff was terminated because she abandoned her job following the birth of her child rather than because of her pregnancy. In so holding, the court noted that the plaintiff’s supervisors had neither discouraged her pregnancy leave nor responded negatively to her request for leave. Rather, the evidence showed that the plaintiff had voluntarily stayed out of the workforce for some 18 months after filing for unemployment compensation. In the court’s opinion, it would not be unreasonable for the jury to view this as confirmation that the plaintiff did not want to work at that time.

As to the plaintiff’s other arguments on appeal, the court of appeals found that the lower tribunal had not committed any reversible errors.

Speak to a Lawyer About Your Atlanta Employment Law Case

Although the plaintiff in this case did not ultimately prevail upon her claim of discrimination, it should be noted that each case stands on its own merits. If you believe that you have been wrongfully discriminated in the workplace, you should talk to a lawyer about the possibility of filing suit against your employer. Attorney John L. Mays at Parks, Chesin & Walbert can help with your Atlanta discrimination suit. For an appointment, call us now at 404-873-8048.


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