Articles Posted in Employment Discrimination

Claims involving allegations of Texas employment discrimination can be very complicated when it comes to procedural matters. This is true for both the plaintiff and the defendant. If certain documents are not filed in a timely fashion, the consequences can be very costly. A plaintiff employee who does not file his or her claim within the time allowed by law may forfeit the right to sue. A defendant employer who does not file a timely answer can have a sizable judgment entered against it without having an opportunity to defend itself.

Facts of the Case

The plaintiff in a case recently under consideration by the Court of Appeals for the Eighth District of Texas was a woman who filed an employment discrimination lawsuit against the defendant employer in February 2017. When the plaintiff’s lawsuit was filed, the clerk’s office issued a citation reflecting service by certified mail on the defendant’s registered agent for service of process. Process was served by a private process server, and, according to the process server, delivery was made on March 8, 2017. This was evidenced by the “green card” from the postal service, which the plaintiff filed with the court.

Because the defendant did not file an answer to the plaintiff’s complaint, the plaintiff moved for a default judgment. The trial court granted a default judgment to the plaintiff on the issue of liability in June 2017. In July 2017, a prove-up hearing was held on the issue of damages. Thereafter, the trial court entered a final judgment in the plaintiff’s favor in the amount of $423,460. The court clerk notified the defendant of the judgment by mailing a copy of the court’s order to the defendant’s registered agent for service of process. More than 90 days later, the defendant finally appeared in the case, seeking a new trial. The trial court concluded that it lacked jurisdiction to hear the motion because it was filed outside the extended filing window of Texas Rule of Civil Procedure 306a(4).

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There are a seemingly endless array of situations that can lead to a Dallas employment discrimination lawsuit, some of which have merit but many of which do not. There are, after all, many legitimate reasons why an employee may be fired or the subject of an adverse employment decision.

Most people would probably agree that appropriating an employer’s property for one’s personal use would fall into the “legitimate reason to fire” category, but a worker terminated by the Texas Department of Transportation filed a lawsuit complaining that, although she did violate the department’s policy by taking state property, she was the victim of sex discrimination because male coworkers who did something similar were not fired.

Facts of the Case

In a recent case, the plaintiff was an employee of the defendant transportation department for some 10 years before she was terminated in 2010. She filed suit against the department and her former supervisor, alleging that she had been unlawfully discharged based on her sex. The department maintained that the plaintiff had been fired for removing scrap metal and other materials from the trash for her personal use. According to the plaintiff, two male employees engaged in similar conduct but were not fired.

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Sexual harassment and discrimination claims are all too common these days – so common, in fact, that it would seem like such cases should fall more in the “old news” category than in the “breaking news story” category. However, some Texas sexual harassment cases are still making the news, especially if a public figure is involved or if the details are such that the media believes the public would be particularly interested.

In such situations, an issue may arise as to what – if any – information an investigative reporter (or anyone else for that matter) is entitled to know. With regard to public employers (such as schools and universities), it may take a court’s assistance in order to determine what information must be revealed – and which must be kept away from public consumption.

Facts of the Case

A recent appellate court case involved a dispute between an independent school district and the Texas Attorney General’s office. The case arose as a result of a disagreement regarding whether the school district had to release a certain document (which included, among other things, information regarding complaints of workplace harassment, alleged acts of discrimination, romantic affairs between district employees, and investigations conducted by child protective services). The information had been requested by a news reporter under the Texas Public Information Act.

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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.

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Matters of timeliness are very important in a Dallas employment discrimination lawsuit. If a would-be litigant does not act with due punctuality in seeking legal redress, it is very possible that his or her claim may be dismissed. This is true even if the underlying claim would otherwise be successful.

Facts of the Case

In a recent Texas appellate case, the plaintiff was a former administrative assistant at the defendant university medical center. After allegedly having been harassed and discriminated against due to her status as a breastfeeding mother, the plaintiff was officially terminated from her employment on April 19, 2016. She filed a charge of discrimination complaint with the Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) and Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) on October 11, 2016, less than 180 days following receipt of the termination letter from the defendant. After receiving a right-to-sue letter from the TWC, the plaintiff filed a sex discrimination and retaliation lawsuit under the Texas Commission on Human Rights Act.

The defendant filed a plea to the jurisdiction of the trial court, arguing that the plaintiff’s lawsuit was barred by sovereign immunity because of her failure to exhaust her administrative remedies in a timely fashion. According to the defendant’s view of the case, the 180-day period for seeking administrative relief began running on March 14, 2016, the date upon which it notified the plaintiff of its intent to terminate her employment, rather than on the date of her actual termination. The trial disagreed and denied the relief sought by the defendant.

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While it is wrongful under certain state and federal laws to engage in discrimination against a person who is disabled, not every Dallas disability discrimination lawsuit against a disabled person’s employer is well-founded. In some cases, the employer may have a legitimate, non-disability-related reason for the termination (or other adverse employment action). If the employee disagrees, it is up to the court to decide which party has made the more convincing case as to the “real” reason for the firing.

Facts of the Case

In a case recently considered by the Court of Appeals for the Thirteenth District of Texas, the plaintiff was a teacher who was terminated at the end of his first year of teaching. He filed suit against the defendant school district, alleging that it had wrongfully terminated him due to a disability that he suffered after having a stroke about mid-way through the school year. (Previously, the plaintiff had filed a timely charge of discrimination with the Texas Workforce Commission Civil Rights Division, which granted him a right-to-sue letter.)

The defendant filed a plea to the jurisdiction of the trial court, which the trial court denied. The defendant appealed.

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It is not unusual for a Dallas employment law matter that should, by rights, involve only a single issue to grow into a multi-faceted “shotgun” approach (colloquially speaking) lawsuit that adds unnecessary claims, complications, and expenses to what should be a fairly simple matter to resolve. A recent case that began as a whistleblower claim but grew to include several other allegations is illustrative. Fortunately for the employer, the appellate court eventually dismissed not only the add-on claims but the original one, as well.

Facts of the Case

The plaintiff in a recent case filed in Jefferson County, Texas, was a county jail employee who filed suit against the defendant county, asserting a claim as an alleged whistleblower. According to the plaintiff, she was demoted when she should have been promoted, in retaliation for refusal to cooperate with an internal affairs investigation of a co-worker who purportedly had a sexual encounter with an inmate at the jail.

When the plaintiff originally filed her lawsuit in September 2015, she only claimed that the defendant’s conduct was in violation of the Texas Whistleblower Act, but she later amended her pleadings to include an employment discrimination claim under the Texas Commission on Human Rights Act. She also alleged that the defendant had violated a collective bargaining agreement to which it was a party and that the plaintiff’s rights under the Texas Constitution had been violated.

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Arbitration agreements have become increasingly popular over the past several years. In the case of arbitration agreements pertaining to employment law issues, such as a Dallas employment discrimination claim, an arbitration agreement is much more likely to have been drafted by the employer (or its legal representatives) than by the employee.

Thus, an employee may have the belief that arbitration will unfairly favor the employer and that the employee would be “better off” to go to trial rather than have his or her claims decided by an arbitrator. In such a situation, the employee may seek to avoid the terms of an arbitration contract if at all possible.

Facts of the Case

In a recent case, the real party in interest was the plaintiff in a lawsuit accusing the defendant employer of employment discrimination and retaliation in violation of the Texas Labor Code. The defendant sought to compel arbitration of the plaintiff’s claim, relying on an arbitration agreement that was allegedly electronically signed by the plaintiff. The defendant’s human resource generalist signed an affidavit supporting the defendant’s motion, attaching the arbitration agreement and related documents.

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As in areas of the law, there are strict procedures that must be followed by those who seek legal redress for an alleged act of Dallas employment discrimination.

Failure to abide by the appropriate procedural rules can, and frequently does, result in dismissal of a case brought by a disgruntled employee or former employee. In a case decided last month, a worker’s employment discrimination lawsuit was dismissed because (among other reasons) she failed to sue a defendant that had the legal capacity to be named as a party in such a case.

Facts of the Case

In a recent case considered by the Court of Appeals for the Fifth District of Texas at Dallas, the plaintiff was a former employee of the defendant city attorney’s office. In 2016, she filed a complaint with the Texas Workforce Commission, alleging a claim of employment discrimination against the defendant. The Commission was unable to conclude that a statutory violation had occurred but advised the plaintiff that she had until December 25, 2016, to file a formal lawsuit against the defendant. The plaintiff filed suit on December 8, 2016, but she did not identify a person to be served.

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Under Texas law, a claimant seeking damages for an alleged act of employment discrimination must follow certain procedural requirements. One of these requirements is the filing of a “sworn, written complaint” with the appropriate agency within a certain time period. If this initial procedural threshold is not met, the plaintiff will likely have great difficulty maintaining a formal complaint against the defendant in court later on. If you have questions about the requirements associated with filing a lawsuit of this nature, reach out to a dedicated Dallas employment discrimination attorney.

Facts of the Case

In a recent case, the plaintiff was a woman who claimed that she had been the subject of a discriminatory act when she was not hired, at age 65, for a lecturer position with the defendant college. She contacted the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and completed an intake questionnaire in November 2013, alleging that two younger, less qualified persons had been hired instead of her and that the defendant had stated in a meeting that “young blood” was needed. In April 2014, the EEOC closed the plaintiff’s claim.

The following month, the plaintiff filed suit against the defendant pursuant to the Texas Commission on Human Rights Act. The defendant filed a plea to the jurisdiction of the trial court, as well as motion for summary judgment (seeking dismissal on traditional summary judgment grounds, as well as on no-evidence grounds). Despite the defendant’s argument that the trial court lacked jurisdiction over the matter because the plaintiff had not exhausted her administrative remedies, the trial court denied the defendant’s plea to the jurisdiction of the court.

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