Articles Posted in Employment Discrimination

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Congratulations to Deborah Schwartz, winner of the National Employment Lawyers Association of Georgia (NELA-GA) Advocacy Award. NELA-GA Board Members Tamika Sykes and Julie Oinonen organized the Advocacy Award Dinner this year and were proud to present Deborah Schwartz with this year’s award.

NELA-GA, the Georgia affiliate of the National Employment Lawyers Association (NELA), is a civil rights bar association composed of attorneys whose employment litigation practices advocate for employees’ rights.

Julie Oinonen and Mario Williams of Williams Oinonen LLC are proud members of NELA-GA. Stated Julie Oinonen: “We believe in this group of like-minded lawyers who care about protecting civil rights. Ms. Schwartz’ work, particularly in the area of employment discrimination, has been an inspiration to all of our members to continue fighting the good fight.”

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Good Georgia Employment Lawyer is representing yet another African American employee suing CNN for race discrimination. Dewayne Walker, a manager for CNN’s Creative Marketing and Public Relations Group in Atlanta is suing Turner Broadcasting System, Time Warner Inc., CNN and Turner Services Inc. for $50 million for racial discrimination and claims he was retaliated against for filing an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission [EEOC] complaint. Dewayne Walker alleged in his lawsuit he has never been promoted in the thirteen years he’s worked for CNN because he is black. In that time frame, he claims he’s endured racially prejudice statements from bosses, including ‘It’s hard to manage black people’ and ‘Who would be worth more: black slaves from the past, or new slaves.’ The 46-year-old advances his claims by adding that he’s been skipped over nine times for promotions for white employees, who he maintains were less qualified than him for the positions. This is not the first race discrimination suit against CNN. Williams Oinonen LLC also recently represented Mr. Ricky Blalock. 

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3388729/It-s-hard-manage-black-people-Emmy-winning-CNN-producer-sues-Ted-Turner-s-broadcasting-company-50-million-claiming-passed-promotions-favor-whites-culture-unilateral-unchecked-DISCRIMINATION.html#ixzz4PwW2APDL

Williams Oinonen LLC represents hard working Georgians throughout the state who are being unlawfully treated by their employers. Call 404-654-0288 for more information.

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black guy.JPGOftentimes, employees come to us because they believe they are being racially discriminated against and subjected to a hostile work environment.

Racial harassment is actionable (which means you can file a lawsuit because of it) under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 where the conduct is sufficiently severe or pervasive to alter the conditions of employment and create an abusive working environment. See, e.g., Freeman v. City of Riverdale, 330 F. App’x 863, 865 (11th Cir.2009).

To establish a prima facie case of hostile work environment in the form of racial harassment, an employee must show that (1) he belonged to a protected group; (2) he was subjected to unwelcome harassment; (3) the harassment was based on his race; (4) the harassment was sufficiently severe or pervasive to alter the terms and conditions of employment and create a racially abusive work environment; and (5) a basis exists for holding the employer liable. See Miller v. Kenworth of Dothan, Inc., 277 F.3d 1269, 1275 (11th Cir.2002).

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justice-scales-gavel-fb.jpegChoosing a good lawyer to help you with a case, such as wrongful death, contract dispute, employment termination; asset forfeiture, and excessive force, can be very difficult.

Many blog posts advise you to make sure that (1) you feel comfortable with the lawyer you choose and that (2) the lawyer you choose has sound experience and understanding in the area you need representation in. While all that is true, there is one area that also demonstrates the quality of representation you will be obtaining to handle your case: your lawyer’s willingness and ability to handle an appeal of your case in front of a higher court.

Foremost, you may not read a lot of blog posts that talk about handling an appeal of your case in front of higher courts, because that means something may have went wrong with your case in the lower court. But here’s the reality: when you are going up against cities, school districts; law enforcement officials; public officials; big corporations; and hospitals–whether you win or lose at the lower court (trial court), one party is going to appeal, or threaten to appeal the loss, to the higher court (Appeals Court).

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Gilda.jpgGeorgia Education Lawyer was proud to represent our courageous educator, Ms. Gilda Day. Ms. Day won her appeal before the State Board of Education reversing the Floyd County Local Board of Education’s decision to non-renew her. This case has regularly drawn the attention of the front page of the Rome Tribune and can be reviewed here.

Ms. Day’s appeal was drafted by Ms. Julie Oinonen and her partner Mr. Mario Williams of Williams Oinonen LLC. “Providing teachers with procedural due process is a constitutional right and essential to maintain quality teachers in an increasingly difficult and underpaid profession” said Oinonen. “Under the Constitution, the government cannot take away life, liberty or a property interest without due process—it is a constitutional right that not even charter systems are permitted to waive. What due process does is provide teachers with a fair hearing: the right to notice and opportunity to be heard so that a superintendent or administrator cannot unfairly or indiscriminately fire a teacher without just cause, for discriminatory purposes, or simply a personal vendetta. Gilda Day’s courage and bravery has resulted in a victory for teachers throughout our state and a win for Georgia public education that is increasingly under attack by big money, outside interests who seek corporate takeover of our Georgia public schools.”

“Today’s State Board decision stating that charter schools and systems cannot waive the Fair Dismissal Act is a huge win for all teachers,” stated Mike McGonigle, general counsel for the Georgia Association of Educators (GAE). McGonigle was referring to the reversal of the Floyd County Board of Education’s decision that fair dismissal due process rights could be waived by charter schools.

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Douglasville, Georgia recently settled a federal lawsuit brought by an American Muslim woman named Lisa Valentine, who was jailed due to wearing a hijab, a Muslim headscarf while at the courthouse.

ACLU lawyer Azadeh Shahshahani stated: “Obviously the manner in which Ms. Valentine was treated was inexcusable and unconstitutional,” said Shahshahani, a lawyer with the American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia. “We hope that through this settlement, no other people will be subject to this same humiliating treatment Ms. Valentine had to suffer.”

As part of the settlement, Douglasville agreed to adopt new policies that allowed those who wear religious head coverings the option to be screened privately by a same gender person. Those who have religious headwear will no longer be forced to remove them and can wear them while in court. The Georgia Judicial Council made this nonbinding recommendation to all local courts after the Valentine incident was reported.

Valentine, is an African-American woman who converted from Christianity to Islam 15 years ago and was jailed back in 2008 after she wore a hijab while taking her nephew to Douglasville Traffic Court. When a security guard told Ms. Valentine to remove her hijab she refused, protested, and then tried to leave. But the Judge ordered her arrested and jailed for ten days due to contempt of court. She was later released that day.

A similar incident occurred this past May in Henry County, when a state judge refused to allow a Muslim man to wear his religious head cap, called a kufi, while in court. Fortunately, the judge reversed his decision.

The First Amendment of the United States Constitution guarantees us freedom of religion. The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights defined freedom from religious discrimination as being guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution–thus the state of Georgia and its respective state court in Douglas County must also comply with such laws.

Religious discrimination happens when someone is denied equal protection of the laws, including equal treatment in the administration of justice and access to the courts because of the exercise of their right to religious freedom. Thus, it would be a violation of one’s constitutional right to freedom of religion through the 14th amendment whenever a Muslim, Jewish, or Christian are banned from a courtroom because they are wearing religious clothing or headgear (think a nun’s habit or Jewish yarmukle).

The largest growing number of religious discrimination cases however involve the area of employment. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 makes it unlawful for an employer to discharge any employee or to discriminate with respect to compensation or other terms of employment due to the employee’s religion, as well as race, color, sex, or national origin. 42 U.S.C.S. § 2000e-2(a)(1).

When a plaintiff uses circumstantial evidence to prove religious discrimination, the court applies the McDonnell Douglas burden-shifting approach. This approach requires a plaintiff the initial burden to establish a prima facie case showing: (1) she is a member of a protected class; (2) she was qualified for his job; (3) she was subjected to an adverse employment action; and (4) her employer treated similarly-situated employees outside her class more favorably or replaced him with someone outside her class. Mackmuhammad v. Cagle’s Inc., 379 Fed. Appx. 801 (11th Cir. Ga. 2010)

Once the plaintiff does this, the employer must prove a non-discriminatory basis for its actions and if those are given, then the plaintiff must show that those reasons are simply pretextual (false, a cover up to hide true motives and intentions.) Id.

It is illegal to harass someone because of their religion in an employment setting. The law also requires employers to reasonably accommodate an employees religious beliefs or practices unless doing so would create more than a minimal burden on the employer’s operation. An example of reasonable accommodation would be making sure an Orthodox Jew was not scheduled during Sabbath, or a Christian on Sunday morning worship hour.

If you believe you have been a victim of religious discrimination, you can file a charge with the EEOC but there are time limits and you must do it within 180 days of the discriminatory treatment.

It is also highly recommended to seek legal counsel.
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disability.jpgThe American Disabilities Act prohibits employers from discriminating against employees on the basis of their disability. To be considered disabled under the ADA, you must have “a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities” be a person who has a record or history of such an impairment, or be a person that is perceived to have such an impairment.

Title I of the ADA requires employers who have 15 or more employees to provide equal opportunities to qualified individuals with disabilities. For example, under Title I employers are prohibited from discriminating in hiring, recruitment, training, pay, and other employment privileges. Title I also prevents questions that an employer can ask about a prospective employee’s disability before the job offer is made. It also requires that employers provide reasonable accommodation to the known qualified individual with disability unless it creates undue hardship for the employer.

How do you ask for a reasonable accommodation?

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This is a video clip that would be hilariously funny if it was not so true. This is a conversation between an injured person and an insurance company adjuster. The insurance company adjuster represents the drunk driver who caused the injured person’s broken legs and brain injury.

Many people make the horrible mistake of trusting the insurance adjuster who represents the person that hurt them. No matter what type of injury case you are involved in, this is the worst thing you can do. The insurance adjuster is not on your side! Their only goal is to try and get you to settle for as low of an amount of money as possible.

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teacherstudent.JPGThe Official Code of Georgia §§ 20-2-940, et seq., governs the demotion,

dismissal, and suspension of professional, certificated school district employees in Georgia. This law also governs the termination and suspension of school district employees who have a contract for a definite term. The law applies equally to all employees who have contracts with the school district, but does not apply to at-will employees without contracts.

Termination or suspension can only be based only on the eight grounds listed in

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Protecting your name and reputation means a lot, especially in the world of government jobs where employment files are kept and shared on mostly all employees. If a government employee’s employment file has something negative regarding her name and reputation, she may find it impossible to get another government job upon being fired. In this respect, the government-employment world is slightly different than the private-sector world where, for example, a person may hide past employers and reasons for dismissal.

So, in Georgia, what does an unclassified government employee do when he or she is fired and his or her reputation has been damaged during the termination process?

Classified employees can be terminated. But these type of employees generally have the right to appeal the reason(s) for their termination. That means that classified employees generally have privy to a more complete administrative process that allows them to fight more forcefully against their termination and thus protect their name and reputation. However, unclassified employees are, generally, not so fortunate.

Once an unclassified employee is terminated, the employee generally cannot appeal the decision. So what can you do, if you are terminated, and during the termination process things are said about you that damage your reputation and chances to get another government job? Unclassified employees may have an option that protects their name and reputation.

The option is called a “name clearing hearing.” The idea behind this type of hearing is that damage done to a government employee’s reputation qualifies as a “liberty interest.” Essentially that means that you “may” be entitled to procedural due process, a hearing regarding the matter that has affected your name and reputation.

There are several factors that a lawyer must examine to ensure that a client may seek this remedy. Of those factors, here are six (6): (1) A false statement must have been made; (2) that statement must have been of a “stigmatizing nature” and related to (3) the discharge of the government employee; (4) the statement must have been made public by (5) the government employer; and (6) the discharged employee must not have had a meaningful opportunity to clear his or her name. Although these are not all the factors that will determine whether you are entitled to a name clearing hearing, they represent a good starting point, for the analysis of your case.

Of the above-mentioned six (6) criteria, point six may prove to be the most difficult. For example, if the unclassified employee was given an opportunity to provide a statement/report in his or her defense, did she have a meaningful opportunity to clear her name? This question and others are best suited for an experienced attorney in this area.
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