Schoolteacher’s Claim Brought Pursuant to the Georgia Whistleblower Act Dismissed as Untimely

When an employee, former employee, or potential employee seeks to assert an Atlanta employment law claim, he or she must do so in a timely fashion. The exact time for the filing of a claim is dependent upon both the applicable law and the factual circumstances at hand.

For instance, in a “whistleblower” suit filed under Georgia state law, a formal complaint must be filed within one year of the date that the plaintiff discovered the alleged retaliation (but no longer than three years after the retaliatory action). Other factors may come into play as well, but this one-year limitations period will control in most cases.

If the plaintiff in a potential state law whistleblower suit does not take the appropriate legal action in a timely fashion, it is likely that his or her case will be dismissed. In such a situation, he or she may have no legal remedy, despite the employer’s retaliatory conduct.

Facts of the Case

In a case recently reviewed by the Court of Appeals of Georgia, the plaintiff was a former elementary school teacher who was informed in April 2017 that she would not be rehired for the next school year. According to the plaintiff, the defendant school system made this decision in order to punish her for refusing to raise her students’ low grades. The plaintiff filed suit in May 2018, seeking to assert a claim under the Georgia Whistleblower Protection Act, OCGA § 45-1-4.

The defendant filed a motion for summary judgment, asserting that the plaintiff’s claim was barred by the one-year statute of limitations. The trial court agreed with the defendant’s view of the case and granted summary judgment to the defendant. The plaintiff sought appellate review, insisting that genuine issues of material fact precluded summary judgment.

The Court’s Decision

The appellate court affirmed the lower tribunal’s order granting summary judgment to the defendant. The court began by reviewing the rule that, in order to prevail on a motion for summary judgment, the moving party must demonstrate that there is no genuine issue of material fact and that, viewing the facts in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party, the party seeking summary judgment is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.

The court then went on to discuss the question of whether there was a genuine issue of material fact with regard to when whether the plaintiff filed her complaint within one year of learning that her contract would not be renewed. The plaintiff’s “own evidence” showed that, on April 24, 2017, she was told by the principal of the elementary school that her contract would not be renewed, yet she did not file suit until May 3, 2018. Because the undisputed facts showed that the plaintiff filed her complaint more than a year after discovering the alleged retaliation against her, the plaintiff’s claim was untimely. Thus, the appeals court ruled that the trial court had correctly granted summary judgment to the defendant.

To Speak to an Attorney About an Employment Law Case in Atlanta

If you believe that your employer has unlawfully retaliated against you for a whistleblowing activity, you may have a viable claim  under the Georgia Whistleblower Protection Act. To learn more about how the law firm of Parks, Chesin & Walbert can help you assert your rights, call us at 404-873-8048. Please act promptly; as the case discussed above shows, time is of the essence in these types of cases. Claims that are not filed within the applicable limitations period are subject to dismissal.

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