Religious Discrimination Lawsuit Filed

January 26, 2015

Georgia news reports that Atlanta’s fire chief has filed a complaint for discrimination after he was terminated following a controversy over a religious book he wrote. In the book, he denigrated homosexuality. He claimed his views were based on religious beliefs. He further asserts that he was terminated in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964’s prohibition against religious discrimination.

Pursuant to Title VII, you employer may not discriminate against you “because of” your religious beliefs, harass you because of your religious beliefs, or retaliate against you for complaining about religious discrimination or for participating in someone else's religious discrimination case.

In this instance, the police chief self-published a book containing controversial passages condemning homosexuality. He was suspended following the book’s publishing, and subsequently was terminated. According to the former mayor, “The book expresses my deeply held religious convictions on many subjects” and that “I believe that I have been discriminated against because of my religion — Christian.”

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Should Employers Provide Pregnant Workers Reasonable Accommodations?

January 18, 2015

A North Carolina has filed a pregnancy discrimination case after her boss failed to hive her shifts following a request for lighter duties. According to the complaint, the 27-year-old certified nursing assistant was instructed by her doctor to stop lifting patients at the nursing home where she worked.

However, instead of getting the lights duties she requested, she was no longer given any work. The woman claims that as a result, she had difficulty paying her bills, including her mortgage and car payment.

This case is similar to Young v. United Parcel Service, which is currently pending before the Supreme Court and could potentially affect millions of working women across the United States. At issue – whether federal anti-discrimination laws provide enough protection during pregnancy, and whether employers must provide work place accommodations for pregnant workers.

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What Is A Protected Class Under Title VII?

January 10, 2015

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the Justice Department, and many courts across the country have stated that it’s illegal to discriminate against employees for being transgender. In fact, just recently Attorney General Eric Holder announced that its DOJ policy that transgender people are protected under Title VII.

Many times, gender discrimination lawsuits are filed pursuant to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Title VII bans employment discrimination based on race, religion or sex. Your race, color, national origin, age, sex, religion, or disability are considered “protected categories,” which means that your company cannot take any form of adverse or negative action against you because you are a member of one of these protected categories.

An adverse action is a very broad term, encompassing just about anything your employer may do that affects your employment in a negative way. If you have questions about employment discrimination or believe that you may have suffered any form of discrimination, it is a good idea to consult with an experienced Georgia employment attorney to determine your next steps.

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Employee Fired for Caring for Disabled Parent Successfully Brings ADA claim

December 31, 2014

A recent disability discrimination case evaluated whether an employer can lawfully fire an employee for being too distracted from his job duties while caring for his father. The court determined that it could not, and that the employee could successfully bring a case for “associational” disability discrimination.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits employers from taking adverse actions “because of the known disability of an individual with whom the qualified individual is known to have a relationship or association.” In order to bring a claim for “associational discrimination” the employee must show that he or she is qualified for the job at the time, was subjected to an adverse employment action, that the employer was aware that the employee had a relative or associate with a disability, and that an inference exists that the relative/associate’s disability was a determining factor in the employer’s decision. Further, an employer may not make decisions based on the ‘belie[f] that the [employee] would have to miss work’ in order to take care of a disabled person.

If you believe that you or a loved one has suffered any type of disability discrimination, consulting with an experienced Atlanta employment discrimination lawyer is important to determine your next steps.

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Are You An Employee Or Independent Contractor?

December 28, 2014

How workers are classified – whether they are considered to be employees or independent contractors, exempt or non-exempt – is often the starting point for many employment discrimination lawsuits. Understanding your proper classification is the first step in knowing your rights and remedies under the law.

In a recent disability discrimination lawsuit, a pathologist sued the hospital he worked for asserting that the hospital violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA).

The pathologist had a contentious relationship with another doctor, his boss, who resigned from his position. Following his resignation, the pathologist’s contract with the hospital was terminated.

A crucial issue in the case was whether the pathologist should be classified as an employee. The answer to this question often centers on the issue of control. In this particular employment discrimination lawsuit, the court evaluated the entire relationship between the pathologist and the hospital – looking at control factors and their economic ties. “Control factors” focus on the degree of control an employer has over how a job is to be performed. The court noted that this question is somewhat unique in hospital settings as the result of the doctor/patient relationship.

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Sex Discrimination Ban to Include Gender Identity

December 21, 2014

Earlier this month, Attorney General Eric Holder announced that it is position of the Justice Department that unlawful sex discrimination includes sex discrimination based on gender identity.

In a memo issued on December 15, Holder wrote that it is his belief that the “best reading of Title VII’s prohibition of sex discrimination is that it encompasses discrimination based on gender identity, including transgender status.” This statement reverses the previous position of the Justice Department, which did not include discrimination against transgender people in its definition of sex discrimination. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act prohibits discrimination "because of" an employee's sex. This means that your employer may not take an adverse action against you because of your sex. In other words, your sex cannot play a role in any aspect of your employment, including hiring, transfers, promotions, pay, disciplinary action, suspensions, and discharges.

Further, although sex discrimination laws were originally enacted to protect women, they have also been extended to cover discrimination against men. Now, such important protections have been broadened to include an individual’s psychological identification as a man, woman or some other gender, which may or may not correspond to the sex assigned to them at birth.

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Supreme Court To Rule On Pregnancy Discrimination Case

December 9, 2014

The Supreme Court will begin hearing oral argument on a case that has to potential to profoundly affect working women. The case, Young v. UPS, involves pregnancy-related workplace discrimination.

According to this significant lawsuit, a part-time UPS worker, Peggy Young, became pregnant with her third child while working as a driver at UPS’s Maryland facility. Yong’s doctor recommended that she avoid lifting anything heavier than 20 pounds. However, her job required she lift up to 70 pounds. After presenting the note, Young was placed on unpaid leave through the end of her pregnancy. As a result, for seven months she lost her wages, heath benefits, and her pension.

Young filed suit alleging that pursuant to the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978, UPS should accommodate her request, just as it accommodated workers pursuant to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) who suffered on the job injuries. UPS responded that its obligation to accommodate employees is limited to someone who suffers on the job injuries, or health issues related to the injury. Because pregnancy is not an on the job injury, UPS argued it should not be required to accommodate the lifting restriction. The lower courts ruled in UPS’s favor, and now the Supreme Court will determine if Young will be able to bring her pregnancy discrimination lawsuit before a federal jury to make a determination. She is seeking lost wages and damages.

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Georgia School Districts Cannot Claim Immunity Under The Eleventh Amendment

November 24, 2014

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit in Atlanta has just issued an important ruling that could potentially impact future employment discrimination lawsuits. The decision provides that Georgia school districts cannot hide behind the Eleventh Amendment’s immunity provisions to shield them from suits in federal court. Generally, the Eleventh Amendment shields states from federal lawsuits (such as many employment discrimination cases) unless the state has consented to be sued in that instance. Further, state officers and other entities may be entitled to similar immunity if they are operating as an “arm of the state.” Cities and counties are not protected by the same immunity.

However, the question of whether school districts are immune from federal lawsuits involves state law, and Georgia courts had never previously ruled whether they may use the 11th amendment as a defense.

On November 10th the court issued its ruling, rejecting a Georgia school district’s claim of immunity. The case involves an employment claim against the Henry County School District, filed by a woman suffering from sickle cell anemia. The school district had raised the 11th amendment as a defense to her claim. Attorney Cheryl Legare of Atlanta’s Buckley Law Firm won the appeal on behalf of the schoolteacher, noting, “I am extremely happy with the results.”

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Race Discrimination Verdict Reinstated Against MARTA Manager

November 22, 2014

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit has just reinstated a $500,000 retaliation verdict against MARTA. The retaliation lawsuit was filed after a man was allegedly fired for telling his supervisor he was going to file a race discrimination case.

In order to protect individuals from discrimination in the work place, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits employers from retaliating against workers who complain about discrimination – even if the workers may not be to affirmatively prove such discrimination occurred. This means that if you can show that you reasonably believed that you were discriminated against and then subjected to an adverse action, you may be able to recover damages in a retaliation case.

In the recent matter, argued on appeal by Attorney Steven Wolfe of Atlanta’s Buckley Law Firm, Darryl Connelly, a white MARTA worker, complained that his supervisor, who is African-American, subjected him to race discrimination. Evidence was introduced that she referred to herself as a “mean black bitch” and socialized with black employees. Connelly asserted that he was fired after he complained to her that she was “railroading” him.

A jury determined that MARTA was guilty of retaliation and awarded a $500,000 verdict to Connelly. However because the verdict was split - the supervisor was not found liable - the court set aside the award as “inconsistent.” On successful appeal, the 11th Circuit Court determined that an inconsistent verdict was not a proper basis to set aside the award. As such, it reinstated the verdict against MARTA, finding the employer liable for retaliating against Connelly for complaining about discrimination.

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50 Years Later: the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Title VII

November 18, 2014

In 1963, after marches and lobbying by the civil rights community, President John F. Kennedy publicly endorsed a civil rights bill, which would give "all Americans the right to be served in facilities which are open to the public – hotels, restaurants, theaters, retail stores, and similar establishments," as well as "greater protection for the right to vote." President Kennedy delivered this speech after a series of protests from the African American community, led by Martin Luther King, Jr. and other civil rights leaders, including the Birmingham campaign in which students and children were attacked by police dogs and high-pressure fire hoses during protests against segregation. As the bill was pending in Congress, President Kennedy was assassinated.

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Research Shows Weight Discrimination is Prevalent

November 15, 2014

Employment discrimination may occur in a variety of settings. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits many types of discrimination including discrimination based on race, color, sex, national origin and religion. This means that employers are prohibited from making employment decisions such as hiring, firing, promoting based on these categories. In fact, Title VII makes it illegal to consider these “protected” categories when making any employment decisions. Additionally, Congress has also passed the Americans with Disabilities Act/Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act (ADA/ADAAA) making it illegal to discriminate against individuals with disabilities and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) prohibiting age-based discrimination.

If you have questions about employment discrimination, or believe that you may have been discriminated against, consulting with an experienced Atlanta employment discrimination attorney is important to determine your rights.

Recently, law makers have been discussing whether protections should be adopted for “weight discrimination.”

According to a recent report in the Washington Post, obese people are often discriminated against in the workplace and have difficultly getting “equal treatment.”

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Unlawful Retaliation Claims On the Rise

November 4, 2014

A recent report reveals that a record number of employment discrimination cases based on “unlawful retaliation” were filed last year. According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), more than 38,000 charges of retaliation were filed by workers in 2013. Over the last decade, the number of retaliation claims has steadily risen. In fact, it ranks as the most commonly reported form of workplace discrimination – overtaking race discrimination.

What is retaliation?

“Unlawful retaliation” includes a broad range of activities and generally constitutes any negative employment action that employers take in response to workers complaining about race, age, gender or any other type of work place discrimination. Retaliatory actions include not hiring, firing, failing to promote and demoting employees. It also may include more subtle practices such as giving a worker less desirable shifts and transfers to inconvenient locations. The Supreme Court has defined retaliation broadly as "any action that is designed to deter a worker from complaining about employment discrimination, or acting as a witness in a co-employee’s claim of discrimination." Further in certain situations, third parties may bring retaliation actions. For example, the court recently held that a man could sue for retaliation after he was fired following his fiancé’s accusation of sex discrimination against their mutual employer.

If you have questions about retaliation, or believe that you may have been subjected to unlawful retaliation at work, we urge you to consult with an experienced Atlanta unlawful retaliation attorney immediately to determine your next steps.

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