Pro Se Plaintiff Has Her Employment Discrimination Lawsuit Dismissed on Procedural Grounds

Atlanta employment discrimination claims are subject to many rules, each and every one of which must be followed regardless of whether the employee is represented by experienced legal counsel trained in these matters or whether the employee is acting pro se, meaning representing herself or himself. Although a court may grant a bit of latitude to a pro se litigant by, for example, granting a brief extension of time in which to file documents regarding the issues and legal arguments in a particular case, the general expectations are the same for those represented by counsel and those representing themselves. Consequently, most pro se plaintiffs are destined to fail, sooner or later.

Facts of the Case

In a recent unpublished federal case, the pro se plaintiff filed suit against the defendant employer in November 2017, attempting to assert claims of sexual harassment, a hostile work environment, and retaliation in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964; age discrimination in violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act; and wage and hour practices in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act. The plaintiff originally filed her lawsuit in state court, but the matter was removed to federal district court by the defendant.

The defendant’s answer to the plaintiff’s complaint denied liability for her allegations and asserted some 30 affirmative defenses. Although the federal district court had a general preference of setting a trial date within a year of the filing of a complaint, the court opted to grant the pro se plaintiff additional time in which to prepare for trial and set the trial for June 2019. The trial court judge explained to the plaintiff the importance of complying with certain deadlines contained in the court’s scheduling order (such as the times for making initial disclosures, disclosing expert witnesses’ names and reports, and completing discovery). The plaintiff indicated that she understood the deadlines and that she would comply with them.

Although the plaintiff filed a disclosure of expert witness document identifying a certified public accountant as a “specially retained” expert, she failed to respond to multiple requests for information about the subject matter upon which the expert was expected to testify. The plaintiff also failed to produce numerous other discovery documents, such as initial disclosures or responses to requests for production, and her responses to interrogatories were submitted late and were “largely deficient and incomplete.” In late 2018, the federal district court dismissed the plaintiff’s case for lack of prosecution.

The Court of Appeals’ Decision

The United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit affirmed the lower court’s decision. Although the pro se plaintiff argued on appeal that the lower tribunal had erred in failing to properly evaluate the “argument or evidence presented,” the reviewing court found that the record supported the district court’s determination that any sanction short of dismissal would not have adequately addressed the plaintiff’s conduct. In so holding, the appellate court noted that, while the district court had been accommodating the plaintiff and expressed sympathy for the health issues upon which she blamed some of her delays, the plaintiff’s failure to answer basic discovery both prevented the defendant from developing an effective defense in the case and demonstrated that the plaintiff “had no intention of pursuing her claims or complying with the district court’s orders.”

Get Help from a Knowledgeable Employment Discrimination Attorney

If your employer has acted wrongfully against you, you need to talk to a lawyer. While self-representation is allowed under the law, it is rarely an effective solution. To talk to a seasoned Atlanta employment discrimination attorney, call the law firm of Parks, Chesin & Walbert at 877-986-5529 and schedule an appointment to come in and discuss your situation with a qualified legal professional.