Appeals Court in Dallas Affirms Trial Court’s Denial of City’s Plea to Jurisdiction in Discrimination Lawsuit

One of the most common issues in a Dallas employment discrimination lawsuit is whether the reasons for the defendant employer’s adverse employment action (such as termination, demotion, or failure to promote) were legitimate or pretextual.

In deciding whether the employer violated the law in its actions towards the complaining employee, there are many factors which may come into play. Ultimately, however, each case rests on its own facts.

Facts of the Case

In a recent case heard by the Court of Appeals for the Fifth District of Texas at Dallas, the plaintiff was a man who worked for the defendant city for some 17 years before being discharged. According to the plaintiff’s suit, he was passed over for several promotions and eventually discharged from his employment in 2015. In response to the plaintiff’s allegations that the defendant had harassed him, discriminated against him, and retaliated against him due to his age, gender, race, and national origin, the defendant filed a plea to the jurisdiction of the trial court, challenging the existence of jurisdictional facts.

According to the defendant, the plaintiff had failed to establish a prima facie case of retaliation because he had not met his burden of proving a causal link between his protected activity and the defendant’s adverse employment actions. The plaintiff filed a response stating that he could establish causation, submitting therewith certain evidence for the trial court’s consideration. After reviewing the plaintiff’s evidence, the trial court denied the defendant’s plea to the jurisdiction. The defendant appealed.

The Court’s Holding

On appeal, the defendant argued that the trial court had been in error in denying its plea to the jurisdiction on the plaintiff’s retaliation claims and in overruling its objections to the plaintiff’s affidavit. The appellate court disagreed with the defendant’s arguments and affirmed the trial court’s order denying the defendant’s plea to the jurisdiction.

While acknowledging that governmental units like the defendant are immune unless the State has consented to suit, the court noted that the Texas Commission on Human Rights Act waives immunity in situations in which a plaintiff states a claim for conduct that violates the statute. After the defendant challenged the existence of jurisdictional facts with supporting evidence, however, the plaintiff had a burden to raise a genuine issue of material fact.

Even if the evidence submitted by the plaintiff was circumstantial rather than direct, the court found that it nevertheless raised an issue of fact as to whether the defendant’s alleged reasons for the adverse employment actions about which the plaintiff complained were false or pretextual. Thus, it was proper for the trial court to deny the defendant’s plea to the jurisdiction with regard to the plaintiff’s retaliation claims. The court also agreed with the trial court that the plaintiff’s affidavit was properly considered, despite the defendant’s argument that it was conclusory.

Experienced Dallas Employment Law Attorneys

To schedule an appointment to discuss a claim that your business is facing, call Key Harrington Barnes at 214-615-7925. One of our experienced Dallas employment discrimination attorneys will be glad to talk to you about your case.

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