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Wrongful Termination

Monday, May 2, 2016

Legal Protection from Wrongful Termination in Georgia


Under what conditions can I file a lawsuit if I am fired in the state of Georgia?

Like other states across the nation, Georgia is an "at-will" state with respect to employment. This means that workers in the Peachtree State can be fired at any time, for any reason or no reason at all. This is not to say that employees have no rights, however. In fact, state and federal laws protect workers from wrongful termination.

Exceptions to the At-Will Rule

Discrimination

In Georgia, an employer cannot fire an employee for discriminatory reasons.


Read more . . .


Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Activist Push for Workplace Rights for LGBT

 Georgia is one of 29 states without laws that specifically protect LGBT citizens against discrimination in the workplace.  A gay couple could be married on a Saturday and fired on Monday because the couple’s employers are uncomfortable with their employee’s sexual orientation. In much of the state, this is perfectly legal behavior.

In the city of Atlanta, however, things are different. The Human Rights Campaign, a national advocacy organization that grades the inclusiveness of municipal governments, gave Atlanta a perfect score of 100 in 2013 and 2014, citing its nondiscrimination laws that include protections for sexual orientation and gender identity and its creation of LGBT community liaisons.

Activists intend to push for workplace rights for LGBT state employees during the 2016 legislative session, even though similar legislation has failed to pass in previous sessions. There is reason to suspect that this session might be different, however. There is a change in public opinion and the measure now has 77 cosponsors, 17 of whom are Republicans. Jeff Graham, the executive director of Georgia Equality, which supports the bill, says “if a bill does not have Republican support, it’s not going to pass.” The proposed bill would only affect State employees. Private employers would still be permitted to make employment decisions based on their employees sexual orientation.

Other members of the State legislature are reintroducing measures meant to protect business owners' religious freedom. State Senator Josh McKoon the proposed legislation would protect religious rights against government interference. Critics claim it will give business owners a license to discriminate against minorities. Last March, the bill created much controversy until it was tabled following a contentious hearing. This divisive issue is very much in flux in the state of Georgia.

If you feel that your workplace rights have been violated, you need an experienced attorney who is aware of the changes occurring in our state’s laws to help guide you through the process.


Friday, March 6, 2015

SEC Investigating Corporate Treatment of Whistleblower Employees

Can my employer retaliate against me for being a whistleblower?

The United States Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is investigating whether companies are trying to silence and retaliate against whistleblowers. A whistleblower is an employee who complains of illegal or unethical activities either internally or to a government agency. Whistleblowers play an important role in keeping employers honest, and there are state and federal laws protecting their rights.

Authorized by the 2010 Dodd-Frank Wall Street reform law, the SEC started a whistleblower program which rewards people reporting possible securities law violations if their tip leads to more than $1 million in sanctions. Awards can range between 10 and 30 percent of money collected by the agency. The SEC Office of the Whistleblower received more than 3,500 tips last year. This is the highest number since the program started.

Concerned about corporate backlash against whistleblowers, the SEC issued letters to several companies seeking years of documents such as nondisclosure agreements and employment contracts. It is unknown how many letters were sent or to whom. The documents being sought by the SEC might reveal employers discouraging whistleblowers. Sometimes these kinds of documents contain clauses that require employees to forfeit any awards, even though such clauses are prohibited by federal regulations.

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder called on Congress for action last year, stating that Wall Street companies often shielded their leaders from responsibility for misconduct. Holder suggested increasing rewards for whistleblowers and requested funding for more FBI agents with forensic accounting expertise.

If you live in Georgia and believe your employer is involved in illegal activities but fear speaking up, contact the attorneys at Pankey & Horlock, LLC. We have decades of experience representing clients and aggressively protecting their rights. Call (770)670-6250 today to schedule a consultation and learn more about state and federal legal protections for whistleblowers.


Saturday, January 31, 2015

Former Atlanta Fire Chief Claims Religious Discrimination Led to His Termination

Can I be fired for expressing my religious beliefs at work?

In a complaint filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), former Atlanta fire chief Kelvin Cochran claims that the city discriminated against him because of his religion. The EEOC complaint could be an indication that Cochran plans to file a federal lawsuit against the city.

In November 2014, Cochran was suspended without pay in connection with a bible study book he wrote; the book contained controversial statements about homosexuality. According to Cochran's EEOC complaint, he was informed by city officials that his publication of the book violated unspecified city policies and that an investigation would be conducted.

When Cochran returned from his suspension, he was allegedly told that every city employee interviewed in the investigation reported that Cochran's faith influenced his leadership style. However, no employee reported specific examples of discrimination or being treated unfairly because of Cochran's religious beliefs.

Mayor Kasim Reed terminated Cochran earlier this month, stating that Cochran's "judgment and management skills were the subject of the inquiry" and that "Cochran's personal religious beliefs are not the issue." One issue raised is that Cochran distributed his book at work. Mayor Reed's decision to fire Cochran was reportedly supported by the Atlanta Professional Firefighters union.

Cochran asserts that he obtained authorization from the City's Ethics Department to publish the book, which expresses his "deeply held religious convictions on many subjects." He is claiming that the city violated his federal civil rights by discriminating against him because of his Christian religion. A rally in support of Cochran was held at the Georgia Capitol earlier this month, apparently organized by evangelical groups and leaders.

If you believe that you have been discriminated against at work, the experienced employment discrimination and civil rights attorneys at Pankey & Horlock, LLC, can advise you. We serve the entire state of Georgia. Contact us today at (770)670-6250 for a free case evaluation.


Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Whistleblower in Georgia Receives Compensation for Retaliation

The Georgia Whistleblower Act (O.C.G.A. §45-1-4) was enacted to promote honesty and transparency in local and state government. This law protects any public employee who files a complaint or discloses any activity "constituting fraud, waste, and abuse in or relating to any state programs or operations" from retaliation. Retaliation may include suspension, demotion or a decrease in salary.

A highly publicized case decided earlier this month has placed the spotlight on this important statute and its necessity to protect public employees throughout Georgia. The lawsuit was brought by former Executive Secretary of the Georgia State Ethics Commission, Stacey Kalbermann who claimed she took a salary cut of $35,000 (roughly 1/3 of her annual salary) and had her deputy’s position eliminated after she expressed her plan to issue subpoenas in the investigation of Governor Nathan Deal's 2010 campaign. The defense argued that the Commission was facing major budget issues and the personnel cuts were necessary, and were not made in response to her investigation efforts into the gubernatorial campaign.

After just a few hours of deliberation, a Fulton County jury ruled in Kalbermann’s favor, ordering the state to pay the plaintiff 700,000 in damages for their retaliatory actions which ultimately forced her from her job. It's important to note that the $700,000 judgment does not include back pay or attorney fees which the state will likely be responsible for; the ruling may easily exceed one million dollars. Sherilyn Streicker, Kalbermann’s former deputy, who was relieved of her duties following the subpoena request, has followed a separate wrongful termination suit against the Commission.

The Whistleblower Act was developed to protect public employees who help to identify and expose unethical activities in government. Provided these activities are reported in an appropriate fashion to either a supervisor or governmental agency, these employees are protected by law. While this particular act only applies to public employees in Georgia, there are federal protections under the Occupational Safety and Health Act for employees of certain industries where the health and safety of the public may be at stake.

If you think you have been wrongfully terminated or unfairly retaliated against in your workplace, it’s important that you contact an experienced employment law firm. The attorneys of Pankey & Horlock, LLC have assisted employees in Atlanta and throughout Georgia with complex employment discrimination and wrongful termination matters. Call 770-670-6250 to schedule a consultation and learn more about your options for recovery.


Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Employment Law Cases on the Rise

Workers in Georgia's greater Atlanta area and beyond are more aware of their rights than ever before due to a variety of reasons. Not only are employees keeping updated on the laws surrounding the hiring, firing and payment of workers, but they are taking action on the perceived wrongdoings of employers by filing an increasing number of wage-and-hour and employment discrimination lawsuits than in previous years. According to the annual Workplace Class Action Litigation Report, the number of wage and hour lawsuits increased 10-percent in just one year, from 2012 to 2013, and workplace discrimination cases have been on the rise over the last couple of years as well.

Here are some facts and ideas that may account for the increase in employment law-related suits:

  • It's likely that the economic recession and early recuperation period have led employers to divide work up among fewer employees, which could potentially led to increased workplace stress and lower worker morale in general- all of which may be causing employees to second-guess their employer's pay practices. Keeping informed on your employer's wage and hour policies is a smart move, particularly if you suspect that you are not being compensated appropriately.
  • Federal and state wage and hour laws and regulations are complex, so an employer's honest mistake may cause workers to think they're being cheated out of pay. However, the truth behind an unintended pay or discrimination allegation doesn't always come to light before a lawsuit is filed.
  • The US economy is in a better state than before, which could tempt employees and their counsel to sue emerging businesses in good financial standing.
  • A rising number of lawyers are considering taking on employee discrimination and wage and hour claims because of the amplified success of these cases in the favor of the employee as of late.
  • Employees workers have more access to the world around them than ever before through social media, therefore workers have the chance to learn about all of the employment law related cases in the media, which may make them more confident and willing to file a suit.

Back in 2011, the New York Times reported that accusations of workplace discrimination rose to 99,922 in one year, from 93,277 the previous year, which represents an increase of 7.2 percent- the highest level of new discrimination cases ever recorded.

If you have been wrongfully terminated or victimized by unlawful business practices, the employment discrimination and civil rights attorneys of Altanta's Pankey & Horlock, LLC will work with you to ensure that you receive fair compensation. Contact us at 770-670-6250 for guidance, or fill out this form for a free case evaluation.

 


Friday, April 20, 2012

Four Employees Suing IHOP, Claiming Wrongful Termination

This month, four Muslim men sued IHOP, claiming they were wrongfully terminated from their managerial positions because of their religion, as well as their ethnicity.

In the lawsuit, they claimed that although they got positive performance reviews, all were fired in the course of a year and were replaced by white, non-Muslim managers. They allege that one of those replacements told other managers at a meeting that “Arab men  treat women poorly and with disrespect . . . we’re going to have to let these people go and have new faces coming in”. One of the men at the meeting was fired a few weeks later for an incident that occurred while he was counseling a female employee over a mistake she made.


Read more . . .


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The attorneys of Pankey & Horlock, LLC serve the entire state of Georgia, including Atlanta, Alpharetta, Auburn, Decatur, Doraville, Douglasville, Duluth, Kennesaw, Lawrenceville, Marietta, Stone Mountain, Dekalb County, Fulton County, Gwinnett County, and Cobb County, GA.



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