Elarbee Thompson’s Public Sector Group was founded over 25 years ago and is the firm’s oldest established practice group. Since our inception, the Group has been dedicated to the representation of cities, counties, sheriffs and other constitutional officers, school systems, housing authorities, regional commissions, public colleges and universities, as well as other local governmental entities.
The attorneys in the Public Sector Group have made many substantial contributions to state and federal case law which benefit public employers in Georgia. The Group’s efforts have set positive precedent in the areas of retaliation, discrimination, procedural and substantive due process, qualified and official immunity, at-will employment, certiorari, employment contracts and defamation. Due to our reputation and industry expertise, the Group’s lawyers are frequent speakers on topics and issues affecting state and local governmental entities.
We are proud to work with such local government associations as: Georgia Municipal Association (GMA), Association County Commissioners of Georgia (ACCG), Georgia Interlocal Risk Management Agency (GIRMA), Local Government Risk Management Services (LGRMS), Georgia Local Government Personnel Association (GLGPA), International Municipal Lawyers Association (IMLA) and National League of Cities (NLC).
Litigation and Other Court Proceedings
The Public Sector Group has defended hundreds of state and local government clients and employees throughout Georgia in litigation and other court proceedings involving claims asserted under the federal and state constitutions, federal and state statutes, regulations, executive orders, state contract and common law.
Such claims include:
- Equal Protection Claims Based on Alleged Discriminatory or Arbitrary and Capricious Employment Practices
- Unreasonable Search and Seizure Claims Based on Drug and Alcohol Screens or Workplace Investigations
- Due Process Claims Based on Alleged Deprivations of Property Interests in Continued Employment
- Freedom of Speech or Expression Claims Based on Alleged Retaliation or Prior Restraint Policies
- Due Process Claims Based on Alleged Deprivations of Liberty Interests in Reputation / Name-Clearing Hearings
- Constitutional Privacy Claims Based on Disciplinary Action Relating to Off Duty Misconduct and Associations
- Alleged Discrimination, Harassment, and Retaliation under Title VII, ADEA, ADA, EPA, GINA, 42 U.S.C. § 1981, Executive Order 11246, and Georgia Whistleblower Act
- Alleged Failure-to-Accommodate under ADA, Rehabilitation Act, Pregnancy Discrimination Act, and Religion Components of Title VII and First Amendment
- Alleged Violations of Leave Rights under FMLA, USERRA, and Georgia Laws Regarding Military Leave, Jury Duty, and Subpoena Compliance
- Alleged Unlawful or Inadequate Background Checks under FCRA, GCIC, Title VII, and Georgia laws Regarding Negligent Hiring and Retention
- Alleged Overtime, Comp Time, Minimum Wage, and Deduction/Withholding Violations and Employee Misclassifications under FLSA and Georgia Wage Payment Law
- Alleged Defamation, Invasion of Privacy, Intentional Infliction of Emotional Distress, Negligent Hiring and Retention, and Breach of Employment Contract
- Alleged Violations of Rights Relating to Pension and Other Retirement Benefits, Health Insurance, Accrued Sick, Vacation and Personal Leave, and Other Employee Benefits
- Certiorari and Mandamus Proceedings Alleging Failure to Provide Adequate Pre- and Post-Adverse Action Procedures and Hearings
Federal, State and Local Administrative Proceedings
The Public Sector Group is regularly involved in various administrative proceedings on behalf of the firm’s public sector clients, including conducting or overseeing internal investigations of complaints, grievances and allegations of misconduct and participating in grievance and appeal proceedings before hearing officers, hearing panels and personnel, merit system and civil service boards.
We also represent public sector clients in administrative proceedings before federal and state agencies, including:
- Overtime, Comp Time, Minimum Wage, Deduction / Withholding, Retaliation, and Independent Contractor Misclassification Claims Before the DOL / Wage and Hour Division
- Unemployment Benefits Appeals and Independent Contractor Misclassification Claims Before the Unemployment Insurance Division of the Georgia DOL
- USERRA Claims Before the DOL / Veterans Employment and Training Service Division
- Employment Discrimination, Harassment, Failure to Accommodate, and Retaliation Claims Before the EEOC
Training, Litigation Avoidance, Handbook Review, Etc.
The Public Sector Group assists public employers in designing, updating, and revising personnel policies and procedures, grievance and appeal procedures, and employee handbooks, to ensure legal compliance, minimize liability, and facilitate effective management techniques.
We also design and conduct training programs for our clients in a wide variety of areas relative to employment law, such as:
- Anti-Discrimination and Other Aspects of EEO Compliance
- Avoiding Workplace Harassment Claims and Conducting Investigations
- Conducting Background Checks
- Avoiding Retaliation and Whistleblower Claims
- Overtime, Comp Time, and Other Aspects of Wage and Hour Compliance
- Family and Medical Leave Compliance and Disability Accommodation
- Complying with Military Leaves Requirements
- Open Records Act Compliance, Records Retention Requirements, and Documentation
Non-Employment Law Matters
The Public Sector Practice Group does not restrict our representation of local governmental entities to employment law matters. Following is a listing of the categories and types of non-employment law matters handled by the Group:
- Claims Asserted Under Open Records Act and Open Meetings Act
- Administrative and Judicial Removal Proceedings Against Elected Officials for Misconduct in Office
- Georgia Security and Immigration Compliance Act Compliance
- Ethics Complaints Against Elected and Appointed Officials
- Claims Challenging Medical Care and Other Conditions of Detention in Jails and Other Detention Facilities
- Claims by Venders Challenging Termination or Non-Renewal of Agreements
Representative Case Work
The Public Sector Group has handled hundreds of federal and state administrative proceedings, certiorari and mandamus proceedings, and lawsuits on behalf of state and local governmental entities and their officials, officers and employees, including the following:
- Successfully represented a municipal employer before the Georgia Supreme Court in setting aside an adverse verdict in a case involving the enforceability of numerous employment agreements entered into by an outgoing mayor.
- Successfully represented a municipal employer and city manager before the Georgia Court of Appeals in setting aside an adverse judgment in a defamation case involving novel applications of privilege and immunity defenses.
- Successfully represented a local governmental employer before the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals in a case raising equal protection, due process, and Title VII challenges to a nepotism and fraternization policy.
- Successfully represented a municipal employer before the Georgia Supreme Court in a constitutional case defining the circumstances of when an employer must provide a post-termination hearing to a former employee.
- Successfully represented a municipal employer before the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals in a case narrowing the application of Title VII’s anti-retaliation provisions.
- Successfully represented a municipal employer before the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia in a case alleging constitutional and statutory privacy rights violations arising from a social media-related termination.
- Successfully represented a county before the Georgia Court of Appeals in a case involving statutory and constitutional issues implicated by the removal of members of a board of tax assessors.
- Successfully defended a county before the Georgia Supreme Court in a case involving the enforceability and applicability of the employer’s defense and indemnification policy.
- Successfully defended a sheriff against contempt allegations arising from alleged non-compliance with consent decree entered in case challenging adequacy of medical care provided to jail inmates and subsequently achieved withdrawal of consent decree.
- Successfully prosecuted administrative removal proceedings against an elected official for misconduct in office.