Smith Anderson Client Wins Employment Law Case Before the North Carolina Court of Appeals

March 24, 2005

In a significant employment case, the North Carolina Court of Appeals reversed a trial court decision and ruled that a case brought by a discharged employee should be dismissed. The employee had sued her former employer in state court claiming that she had been discharged from her position in violation of the state Retaliatory Employment Discrimination Act (“REDA”). The employee had previously filed a separate lawsuit in federal court claiming that her discharge had violated the federal Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”). The federal court dismissed her ADA lawsuit after granting the employer’s motion for summary judgment and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit later affirmed this ruling.

In the North Carolina Court of Appeals decision, issued on December 22, 2004, the Court addressed a previously unanswered question under state employment law about whether an employee could file a separate lawsuit over a discharge from employment after having litigated, and lost, another suit in federal court based on the same conduct. The former employee claimed that she delayed bringing the state REDA claim because the N.C. Department of Labor waited for over two years to complete its investigation and issue a Right to Sue letter. The Court of Appeals rejected this argument and ruled, under principles of res judicata, that the discharged employee’s attempt to bring a separate action in state court amounted to “claim splitting,” which is prohibited under state law.

The employer was represented on appeal by Smith Anderson lawyers Rose Kenyon, Mitch Armbruster and Katie Valeika. The case is reported in Skinner v. Quintiles Transnational Corp., 606 S.E.2d 191 N.C. App. (2004). The case was also discussed in ADA Suit Dismissal Barred Plaintiff’s REDA Action, North Carolina Lawyer’s Weekly, December 27, 2004, at p.1.

Questions about this case may be directed to Rose Kenyon, a partner in our Employment Group (919-821-6629 or rkenyon@smithlaw.com) or Mitch Armbruster, of our Litigation Team (919-821-6707 or marmbruster@smithlaw.com).

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