Summary Judgment Granted to Employer in Georgia Man’s Retaliatory Discharge Suit

Last week, we told you about a Georgia retaliatory discharge claim. A woman was allegedly fired in response to her husband (who worked for the same employer) speaking out against workplace discrimination of a job applicant. As that case explained, the husband, too, had filed a claim against the employer, attempting to assert a claim under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000e et seq. The outcome of the wife’s case hinged on her husband’s case, insomuch as he was the primary actor against whom the alleged retaliation was directed.

Facts of the Case

In the husband’s companion case, he alleged that he was the vice president of sales and marketing of the defendant company in 2017 when an advertising manager resigned. A woman who worked for a local media group expressed interest in the job. Ultimately, she met with the plaintiff and submitted a resume to his wife, who worked in human resources.  Unfortunately, the woman’s appearance (she was allegedly wearing tight, rather revealing clothing during the meeting) became a quick topic of discussion in the workplace. After a co-worker called the woman “a whore” and suggested that management would never allow a “bombshell like that” to work there, the plaintiff insisted that discrimination based on the woman’s appearance would be unlawful. (In opposition to the version of events presented by the plaintiff, the defendant company offered testimony by other employees who testified that they had been embarrassed by the plaintiff’s comments about the “well endowed” and “very, very, very well built” job applicant.)

Ultimately, the plaintiff and his wife were both terminated from their employment, and the plaintiff was issued a notice of suit rights by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. After the plaintiff filed a lawsuit in federal court, the defendant filed a motion for summary judgment.

The Court’s Response

The United States District Court for the Middle District of Georgia, Valdosta Division, granted the defendant’s motion for summary judgment. According to the court, the plaintiff was employed in a management capacity and, at most, merely brought to the defendant’s attention the potential for liability regarding its treatment of the job applicant. In the court’s opinion, the plaintiff’s retaliation claim was, therefore, foreclosed under the “manager rule,” which holds that a management level employee who, during the course of his or her normal job performance, disagrees with the employer’s actions does not engage in a “protected activity,” as that term is defined under Title VII.

The court also opined that any inappropriate remarks made by the defendant’s representatives concerning the job applicant (including describing her as “white trash” and the “whore of Babylon”) were not discriminatory because they were based on her conduct as a representative of the media company rather than as a potential job applicant.

Ask an Atlanta Employment Attorney About Your Situation

At the law firm of Parks, Chesin & Walbert, our experienced Georgia retaliatory discharge attorneys handle many different types of workplace conflict and discrimination lawsuits. To schedule a consultation about your potential case, call us at 877-986-5529. Please be mindful that there are filing deadlines in these types of cases, so it is important to get legal advice in a timely manner.