Case Name

Lucy Truitt, et al. v. Atlanta Independent School System a/k/a Atlanta Public Schools (APS), No. 1:15-CV-4295 (N.D.Ga.)

Case Overview

On December 10, 2015, former Atlanta Public Schools (“APS”) teacher Lucy Truitt filed a collective-action lawsuit on behalf of approximately 200 former teachers against APS for age discrimination.  The suit alleges that APS illegally terminated or forced into retirement a group of teachers over age 40, who were in a federally protected age class.  In an effort to cut costs, APS illegally terminated approximately 200 teachers between July 2014 and present, despite this being a violation of federal civil rights protections.

These terminations and forced retirements were part of Defendant APS’ plan to “change the culture” of APS after one of the most massive school cheating scandals in the country.  Former Superintendent Beverly Hall was criminally indicted on March 29, 2013, for her role in the cheating scandal.  APS hired the current superintendent, Meria Carstarphen, in July 2014, and gave her free reign to “change the culture” within APS. Additionally, these terminations and forced retirements constitute a cost-cutting tactic on Defendant APS’s part.  These tactics effectively deprive the 50,000 students attending the 106 APS schools of instruction by older, more experienced teachers.

APS systematically targeted these teachers by transferring them to lower-performing schools, failing or refusing to provide them with the necessary tools to comply with their job standards, and then castigating them for minor infractions such as not starting lessons at a particular time.  Some of these teachers have been assigned to meaningless work, which does not involve teaching and which prohibits contact with students or their parents.  This segregation and gag-order functioned to put these teachers in “teacher jails.”  The majority of affected teachers were either non-renewed or constructively terminated after spending time in these “teacher jails.”  Further, APS has conducted unjustified investigations that constitute “witch-hunts” on teachers with long tenures despite its own history of perjury, cheating, grade-changing, and coercive administration.

As evidence of the pattern and practice of age discrimination, Plaintiffs allege the following specific examples of disparate treatment by APS:

  • Comparison of junior and senior teachers at APS illustrates the dismissal of senior teachers and replacements by younger teachers. This illustrates disparities that adversely affect senior teachers.
  • APS administrators routinely create, promote and/or allow age discriminatory conduct and exploitive activities in the workplace that are openly hostile to senior teachers.
  • APS administrators routinely allow behavior and activities in the workplace that are hostile to senior teachers
  • APS intentionally reduced the number of senior teachers and, despite promises to give the dismissed teacher first choice at other positions, did not do so.
  • APS forced many senior teachers to resign because of the discriminatory actions against them.

All of this comes at a time when APS is struggling to maintain its obligation for pension funding.  APS has announced that new hires beginning in 2016 will have to rely primarily on 401k funds rather than the traditional Teacher’s Retirement System of Georgia plans.  Obviously, APS is obligated to contribute greater funds to longer-term employees.  APS has decided to ease its funding shortfall by targeting older teachers nearing retirement for termination and forced retirement.  This policy constitutes a disparate impact on older employees with longer tenure.  

Who Is Included In The Class?

On November 22, 2016, Magistrate Judge Johnson approved a conditional class of plaintiffs as:

Any teacher employed by Atlanta Public Schools who suffered an adverse employment action between May 9, 2015 and April 5, 2016 who was age forty and over at the time of that adverse action.

If you are a current or former employee of APS who was forty years of age or older between May 9, 2015 and April 5, 2016, you may be entitled to join this lawsuit.  If you were also subjected to an adverse employment action such as harassment, unfair performance evaluations, denial of promotions or lead teaching positions, non-renewal of contract, termination, forced resignation, forced retirement, or abolishment during this time period, you are eligible to make a claim for damages in this lawsuit.

How Do I Make a Claim in this Lawsuit?

If you wish to make a claim and join this case, you must “opt in” to the lawsuit by completing a Consent to Join form and returning it prior to Monday, May 1, 2017.  The consent form must be postmarked no later than Monday, May 1, 2017.

Download a Consent Form here: [Click here to download]

Mail completed consent forms to: P.O. Box 71314, Marietta, GA 30007.

It is entirely your own decision whether to join this lawsuit.

The Court has taken no position in this case regarding the merits of plaintiffs' claims or defendant's defenses. This notice does not mean you have a valid claim or are entitled to any monetary recovery. Any such determination must still be made by the Court.

If you have questions about the allegations in this case or how to exercise your right to join the case, you are directed to contact the attorneys listed below. Do not contact the Court, the Court's staff, or the Clerk of Court with questions regarding this case.

No Retaliation Permitted

Although APS disputes the merits of this case, it recognizes its present and former employees’ right to pursue these claims in court.  Federal law prohibits APS or its agents from discriminating or retaliating against you for “opting in” to this lawsuit.  APS has given its assurance that you will not be subject to retaliation of any kind by choosing to become a part of this case, and you will not be subject to discrimination in any manner if you choose to exercise your rights under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act.

The Legal Effect of Joining the Lawsuit

If you do not return a completed Consent Form by Monday, May 1, 2017, you will not be considered part of this action.  If you choose to join, you will be bound by any judgment or settlement in this case, whether it is favorable or unfavorable.

By opting in, you designate the named plaintiffs as your agents to make binding decisions on your behalf concerning the litigation, however, we also welcome your input as well into those decisions.  You may also be asked to be a witness or to provide evidence in the case, although not all teachers who submit a consent form will be required to do so.  

If you have questions about the allegations in this case or how to exercise your right to join the case, you are directed to contact the attorneys listed below. Do not contact the Court, the Court's staff, or the Clerk of Court with questions regarding this case.