Firm News

February 26, 2013

Wit Hall and Chris Arbery Named “Georgia Super Lawyers” (February 2013)

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February 2013 – Two of the founding partners of Hall, Arbery & Gilligan LLP (Wit Hall and Chris Arbery) have been recognized as 2013 “Georgia Super Lawyers” as published by Atlanta Magazine. According to the selection committee, Super Lawyers are those who have “achieved excellence in their practice” and are selected based on peer recognition and professional achievement.

HA&G Obtains Another Complete Dismissal of Claims (February 2013)

Filed under: Firm News — admin @ 3:06 pm

February 2013 – Hall, Arbery & Gilligan LLP recently obtained dismissal of all claims in an employment case against its client, a nationwide retailer, on a successful motion to dismiss.  The plaintiff, a former employee of the retailer, filed a complaint alleging various tort claims including intentional infliction of emotional distress, invasion of privacy, and tortious interference with business relations.  The Superior Court of Cobb County, Georgia, granted the motion to dismiss on February 11, 2013.

HA&G Achieves Complete Dismissal of 14-count Complaint (February 2013)

Filed under: Firm News — admin @ 3:03 pm

February 2013 – Hall, Arbery & Gilligan LLP obtained the complete dismissal of a 14-count complaint pending in the Northern District of Georgia that had alleged trade secret misappropriation and related tort and contract claims.  The claims arose out of an employee who accepted employment with a former competitor in the commercial and residential heating and air conditioning industry.  After preliminary settlement negotiations failed to resolve the case, HA&G filed a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim.  The entire case was resolved in less than two-months.

February 25, 2013

HA&G Obtains Summary Judgment for Employer in Title VII Retaliation Lawsuit (February 2013)

Filed under: Firm News — admin @ 1:10 pm

February 2013 – Hall, Arbery & Gilligan LLP partner Wit Hall recently obtained summary judgment in the Northern District of Georgia for a local employer.  Plaintiff was a former employee who filed suit under the anti-retaliation clause of Title VII.  The Court found that the employer’s disciplinary actions against plaintiff and its decision to terminate her employment were based on legitimate, non-discriminatory grounds, and the employer was thus entitled to summary judgment.

U.S. Supreme Court will decide standard of proof in Title VII retaliation cases (February 2013)

Filed under: Legal Updates — admin @ 1:04 pm

February 2013 – In what is likely to be one of the more important decisions in the employment law arena this year, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear a case in which it will decide whether, in a Title VII retaliation action, a plaintiff employee must prove that the employer would not have taken an adverse employment action but for the employee’s protected activity, or instead need only prove that the protected activity was just one of the motivating factors for the adverse action.

In University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center v. Nassar, 674 F.3d 448 (5th Cir. 2012), cert. granted, 81 U.S.L.W. 3234 (U.S., Jan. 18, 2013) (No. 12-484), the plaintiff was a university faculty member who alleged that he was constructively discharged as a result of workplace harassment and discrimination based on his Middle Eastern ancestry.  He also claimed that, after resigning his position, the University retaliated against him by blocking his employment at a hospital affiliated with the University.  A jury found that the university retaliated against Nassar and awarded him close to $4 million in back pay, compensatory damages, attorneys’ fees, and costs.  The trial court had instructed the jury that retaliation could be found based on a “mixed-motive” theory (i.e., that the employee’s protected activity was one of several motivating factors).  The university appealed, and the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed, finding no error in the instruction.  Citing a split in the circuits, the Supreme Court granted certiorari.

In a “mixed motive” case, an employee may prove discrimination even if the employer simultaneously possessed a legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason for taking adverse action against the employee.  In other words, the employee need only demonstrate that retaliation was one of the motives for the adverse action.  On the other hand, if the “but for” standard applies, the employee must demonstrate that the adverse action would not have occurred but for the employer’s discriminatory motive.  In Nasser, although the University presented evidence of a legitimate, non-retaliatory reason for blocking Nasser’s subsequent job opportunity, Nasser offered evidence that the University’s action was in retaliation for asserting a claim of harassment.  Instructed on the “mixed motive” theory, the jury found that the University illegally retaliated against Nasser in violation of Title VII.

The Supreme Court’s decision will have broad implications. The Court has announced that it will consider not only whether Title VII’s retaliation provision requires “but for” causation, but also whether “other similarly worded employment statutes” (e.g., the Americans With Disabilities Act, etc.) require this level of proof.  The “but for” standard is preferred by employers, since it requires a plaintiff to demonstrate that retaliation was the only reason for the adverse action.  According to the Supreme Court’s website, oral argument in this case will be held on April 24, 2013.

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