Atlanta Discrimination Lawyers
Discrimination in the workplace is an unfortunate, but long-standing problem in our society. There are numerous laws that protect employees from workplace discrimination, but seeking a legal remedy can seem a daunting experience. If you believe that you have encountered discrimination on the job and want to take appropriate action, it is critical to understand your rights—and to enlist the support of experienced Atlanta employment lawyers like the attorneys at Beal, Sutherland, Berlin & Brown. We understand how challenging the process can feel to people who have been victimized by unfair treatment in the workplace and we have the knowledge, experience, and skill necessary to pursue the relief the law provides. We are also courtroom-tested and have a strong track record of success in high-stakes employment litigation of every type.
The Basics of Employment Discrimination Law
Workplace discrimination occurs when an employer takes adverse action against an employee not for legitimate reasons, but because of the employee’s race, national origin, gender, age, or other protected status. There are numerous state and federal laws which protect employees against workplace discrimination, and the attorneys at Beal, Sutherland, Berlin & Brown have the highest level of experience and skill in handling these claims for every kind of worker.
Title VII makes it illegal for employers to discriminate against employees with respect to their compensation or other terms and conditions of employment because of the employee’s race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. Adverse actions that may be challenged under Title VII include segregation in the workplace, refusal to hire or promote, discriminatory discipline, and wrongful termination. Title VII also prohibits employers from creating or failing to take action to correct a hostile work environment.
Other important federal employment discrimination laws include:
- The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA), which bans discrimination against employees who are over forty years old;
- The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA), along with amendments included in the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act of 2008, and the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, which ensure equal treatment and reasonable accommodation for those with disabilities, a history of a disability, or who are regarded as having a disability;
- The Equal Pay Act of 1963, which requires that men and women who perform substantially similar work be compensated the same;
- The Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA), which guarantees up to 12 workweeks of leave for employees who experience a serious health condition, who are needed to care for a family member with a serious health condition, or who celebrate the birth or adoption of a child;
- The Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA), which protects military service members and veterans from discrimination on the basis of their service to our country and also guarantees them the ability to return to their jobs are deployment;
- The Civil Rights Acts of 1866, which included what is now referred to as Section 1981 and allows claims for discrimination on the basis of race and citizenship in the making and enforcement of contracts;
- The Civil Rights Act of 1871, which created what is now known as Section 1983, a powerful law that allows claims against government employers for violation of any constitutional rights, including the rights to free speech, freedom of religion, unlawful search and seizure, due process, and equal protection of the law
The attorneys at Beal, Sutherland, Berlin & Brown have handled numerous cases under each of these laws and many others. Our attorneys have even improved these laws by winning decisions in the Courts of Appeals and the U.S. Supreme Court which secured broader protection for employees.
There are several government agencies with jurisdiction to enforce many of the employment discrimination statutes. For example, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) investigates and enforces Title VII, the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, the Equal Pay Act of 1963, the ADEA, the ADA, the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, and the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008. Similarly, the U.S. Department of Labor investigates and enforces the FMLA, USERRA, and the Fair Labor Standards Act, among others. These agencies also publish regulations and other guidance that help courts and attorneys interpret and apply these laws.
Some federal employment discrimination claims must first be filed with an agency before they can be presented in court, and there are specific requirements for doing so. For example, claims under Title VII, the ADEA, and the ADA require that a person first file a charge of discrimination against their employer with the EEOC. A charge must usually be brought within 180 days of the discriminatory act, but if the employer is a state or local government, the deadline may be extended up to 300 days in certain cases. After receiving a charge of discrimination, the EEOC investigates the charge, which may include requesting documents and other evidence and interviewing witnesses. The EEOC administrative process may also include mediation, as well as a settlement negotiation process referred to as conciliation if the EEOC finds reasonable cause to conclude that there is a violation. Once this process concludes, the agency issues the “Notice of Right to Sue,” which will enable the employee who filed the charge to proceed to court and file a lawsuit.
Properly handling an employment discrimination claim requires knowledge of the procedures of the federal agencies that investigate many claims, and experience in how to use these investigative processes to build a case. Beal, Sutherland, Berlin & Brown have this knowledge and experience and have worked with the EEOC to secure relief for countless clients.
Proving Employment Discrimination
Employment discrimination cases can often be very challenging. Aside from technical legal requirements, they must usually be proved with circumstantial evidence, which requires creativity and tenacity in litigation to uncover the documents and testimony that can be marshalled to convince a judge and jury that unlawful discrimination occurred. Laws and court rulings provide a general framework, but discrimination must be proved in concrete cases that are not always clear-cut. For example, was a person denied a promotion because of their skin color or because another applicant was more qualified? Was a person given a certain workload that might be considered less desirable for discriminatory reasons or for valid, business reasons? Those are the questions that will be probed in a discrimination case and plaintiffs have to be ready to prove their case, usually by disproving the reason an employer claims was the “real reason” for taking adverse action against an employee.
The lawyers at Beal, Sutherland, Berlin & Brown drill down into the details and aggressively investigate each case, beginning with document review, interviews of witnesses, and developing evidence through agency investigations. Every seemingly small piece of evidence adds up—from the statement of a witness who heard discriminatory remarks, to a history of discrimination complaints and lack of investigations by the company, to the records that show an employer’s reason for doing what it did don’t make sense. Beal, Sutherland, Berlin & Brown does the hard work our clients rely on to piece together their case.
Once a case is ready for court, the attorneys at Beal, Sutherland, Berlin & Brown are prepared to litigate as long as it takes to secure relief. Some of the employment discrimination laws have limitations on the damages, but our attorneys know how to maximize a jury award. For example, under the ADEA and the FMLA, only lost wages and benefits of employment, plus an equal additional amount as liquidated damages, and front pay are available. For claims brought under Title VII or the ADA, an employee may be awarded lost wages and front pay, as well as from $50,000 to $300,000 per violation for emotional distress and punitive damages. All of the primary federal employment discrimination laws provide for employees to recover reasonable attorney’s fees and costs of litigation. These attorney’s fee provisions provide enable attorneys to take discrimination cases that may not involve large amounts of lost wages or other damages.
Serious Issues Call For Serious Lawyers
Discrimination is a serious matter, and getting the relief the law provides is just as serious. People have the right to make a living and the right to be treated fairly by their employer. Discriminatory treatment violates personal dignity, hinders professional advancement, and injures all of society. Fighting it takes a lawyer who understands how to investigate, and then knows how to litigate. At Beal Sutherland Berlin & Brown, we aren’t afraid to make our case in front of jury. That can prove valuable, not just in court, but as leverage in negotiations.
Our attorneys have decades of experience representing employees in workplace discrimination cases in Atlanta and throughout Georgia. We have successfully represented thousands of clients in negotiations with their employers, before the EEOC, and in state and federal courts, including jury trials and appeals, even to the U.S. Supreme Court. We believe that everyone who works for a living deserves equal treatment and dignity in the workplace, and have proven our ability to use the law to protect your rights and create greater fairness and equity in countless workplaces.
Contact us if you believe you have been a victim of workplace discrimination or if you believe your right to equal treatment under the law is being threatened.