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Atoyia Harris is a special employment law counsel in the Labor and Employment Department and a member of the Employment Litigation & Counseling Group. With bench trial, jury trial, and administrative hearing experience, Atoyia approaches each matter strategically to provide the best result for her clients. She has successfully defended matters on a wide variety of issues.

Atoyia advises clients and conducts investigations and trainings on issues related to discrimination, harassment, and retaliation. Her practice also includes counseling clients on reductions-in-force, Covid-19 related matters, issues arising out of social movements including Black Lives Matter and #MeToo, and other sensitive employment issues.

Atoyia is co-chair of the Firm’s Black Lawyers Affinity Group, serves as a member of the Firm’s Associate Council, and is on the Proskauer Women’s Alliance Steering Committee.

Active in the New Orleans legal community, Atoyia is a member of the Young Lawyers Board for the Federal Bar Association’s New Orleans Chapter and other organizations. She is also a member of the national Defense Research Institute’s Membership Committee and Diversity and Inclusion Planning Committee.

Atoyia received her J.D. with an International Law Certification from Loyola University New Orleans College of Law. Atoyia served as the Moot Court Selection Chair and staff member of the Loyola Law and Technology Journal. While in law school, Atoyia interned as a law clerk for the Honorable Jay C. Zainey at the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana and the Honorable Robin Giarrusso at the Orleans Parish Civil District Court. Atoyia was also a member of the award-wining Robert F. Wagner Labor and Employment Moot Court Team.

Prior to law school, Atoyia received her Bachelor of Music in Industry Studies with emphasis in classical piano from Loyola University New Orleans and was member of the Loyola University women’s basketball team.

In Harris v. FedEx Corp. Servs., Inc., No. 23-2003, a Fifth Circuit panel vacated a $365 million punitive damages award in race discrimination and retaliation case, finding that the plaintiff Jennifer Harris (“Harris”) failed to show that Fedex Corporate Services, Inc. (“Fedex”) acted with malice or reckless indifference when it terminated her for poor

On August 18, 2023, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit expanded the types of employment actions that may constitute “adverse employment action” under Title VII in Hamilton v. Dallas Cnty., 5th Cir. en banc. No. 21-10133, 8/18/23. Overruling its nearly 30-year precedent that actionable employment actions under Title VII must relate to “ultimate employment decisions,” the Fifth Circuit held that a plaintiff need only show that they were discriminated against with respect to hiring, firing, compensation, or the terms, conditions, or privileges of employment, even if such actions were not ultimate employment actions.

On March 31, 2022, a Kentucky jury unanimously awarded $450,000 to an employee, who was terminated following two panic attacks the employee suffered at work. The jury concluded the employee’s anxiety disorder was a disability and that the employee suffered an adverse action because of his disability.

Brief Background

In Berling v. Gravity Diagnostics, LLC

On March 11, 2022, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit affirmed summary judgment, dismissing a Texas city employee’s claim that he had been unlawfully terminated from his job because of his age. The Fifth Circuit held that age discrimination comments must contain age-specific references, and a factfinder cannot infer age discrimination

On January 7, 2022—the same day the Supreme Court of the United States heard oral arguments concerning the OSHA workplace vaccine mandate—the Louisiana Supreme Court (“LA Supreme Court” or the “Court”) upheld a private employer’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate, relying on the well-established Louisiana employment-at-will doctrine. The LA Supreme Court found that a private employer is