Articles Posted in Employment Litigation

When it comes to legal matters, including a Dallas retaliatory discharge lawsuit, timeliness is extremely important. When a claim is not filed within the time required by law, the courts will usually dismiss the claim without considering its merits.

Of course, calculating the time in which a claim must be filed is sometimes a complicated matter. When the parties disagree as to the appropriate timeline, it is up to the trial court to make a decision as to the date by which suit should have been filed.

A party aggrieved by such a decision may seek further review from an appellate court.

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While most litigants file suit with the idea of having their day in court, most lawsuits, including those asserting claims under Texas employment law, never reach the trial-by-jury phase. The fact is that many cases are eventually settled between the respective parties, sometimes confidentially, and countless others are often resolved in another manner – dismissal by the court prior to trial. Thus, pre-trial proceedings can be very important – at least as important as what happens at trial and perhaps even more so in some cases.

Facts of the Case

In a recent appellate case arising in the Judicial District Court of Waller County and heard on appeal by the Texas Court of Appeals for the Fourteenth Court of Appeals, the plaintiff was the head coach for a women’s college basketball team. In 2015, the plaintiff removed two female student athletes from the team because they were dating one another. The college’s Title IX coordinator found that the plaintiff had violated XI by implementing and enforcing a team rule against players dating, and the plaintiff was subsequently fired for cause.

Thereafter, the plaintiff filed suit against the college and its athletic director, asserting claims for breach of contract, defamation, and tortious interference. The athletic director was named in both his individual and official capacities in the suit. The defendants filed a plea to the jurisdiction, asking the trial court to dismiss the plaintiff’s claims, with prejudice, based on governmental immunity and the election-of-remedies rule. The plaintiff then filed an amended petition, asserting only her defamation claim and her tortious interference claim; these claims were brought only against the athletic director in his individual capacity. The plaintiff then filed a motion for a voluntary nonsuit against the college and against the athletic director in his official capacity. Continue reading

Under Texas employment law, it is generally unlawful to discriminate or retaliate against an employee who has filed a workers’ compensation lawsuit in good faith. However, not every employee has a remedy, if this law is violated.

Facts of the Case

In a recent appellate case arising from litigation brought by the plaintiff, a former bus driver, against the defendant city transit service in the 160th Judicial District Court for Dallas County, Texas, the main issue on appeal was the propriety of the trial court’s dismissal of the plaintiff’s workers’ compensation retaliation claim on the basis that the court lacked jurisdiction due to governmental immunity.

The plaintiff’s suit, which was filed about two years after he was fired by the defendant, claimed that he was harassed, discriminated against, and ultimately fired because he had, in good faith, filed a workers’ compensation claim and hired an attorney to represent him in regards to the matter. He also asserted a claim for race discrimination, but that claim was severed, thus making the trial court’s dismissal of his retaliation claim under Texas Labor Code Ann. § 451.001 on jurisdictional grounds final and appealable.

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Under state and federal law, employees have certain legal rights. When an employee (present, past, or even potential) believes that his or her rights have been violated, it is likely that a Dallas employment law claim will result. It is important that such a claim, like any other assertion against a business, be strongly defended.

Facts of the Case

In a recent federal case filed in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Texas, Dallas Division, the plaintiff was a woman who filed suit against the defendant employer asserting violations of the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). The plaintiff’s complaint alleged that she developed work-related carpal tunnel syndrome, which she claimed prevented her from performing her job duties.

She further averred that she was entitled to certain salary continuation benefits under a policy of the defendant’s that provided paid leave of up to 100% of regular base pay for workers who were on restricted duty due to an injury or illness. According to the plaintiff, some of the benefits had not been paid, thus prompting her to file suit against the defendant. Continue reading

When it comes to hiring and retaining quality employees, the competition can be fierce. Long gone are the days when a potential employee checked the newspaper or local employment service for job openings. Nowadays, most individuals who are looking for work begin their job search online.

Immediate access to virtually every job available in a particular city gives job applicants plenty of choices, often requiring them to narrow down their search to just a few openings. Thus, a Dallas employer who is defamed or whose business is disparaged online could be at a substantial disadvantage when it comes to finding potential employment candidates.

Facts of the Case

The plaintiff in a case recently considered by the Supreme Court of Texas was a Dallas business that sought to depose representatives of the defendant jobs/recruiting website operator regarding the identity of certain individuals (who identified themselves as former or current employees of the plaintiff) whom the plaintiff alleged had posted negative statements about it online between July 2014 and June 2015. As grounds, the plaintiff contended that it wished to investigate potential defamation and business disparagement claims against the individuals who had posted the unfavorable information about it anonymously on the defendant’s website.

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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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Not every Dallas employment litigation case arises from allegations of age or race discrimination or accusations of sexual harassment. Sometimes, litigation arises as a result of an alleged violation of another law, such as the Texas Whistleblower Act (codified at Tex. Gov’t Code §§ 554.001 et seq.).

Under the Texas Whistleblower Act, a state or local governmental entity may not take adverse personnel action against a public employee who, in good faith, reports wrongdoing by another employee or a governmental entity. If an employee can prove that such an adverse action has been taken against him or her in retaliation for “blowing the whistle,” he or she may be entitled to injunctive relief, money damages, and/or attorney fees.

Facts of the Case

In a case recently ruled upon by the Court of Appeals for the Eighth District of Texas, the plaintiff was a former police officer. He filed suit against the defendants, a city and its police department, seeking a remedy under the Texas Whistleblower Act. According to the plaintiff, he was terminated after some seven years of service because he reported that his supervising officer was attempting to have narcotics planted in his ex-wife’s vehicle (the supervisor and his wife were engaged in a custody dispute at the time). The plaintiff made the report sometime in July 2012 and was dishonorably discharged later that month on other grounds.

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When it comes to Dallas area employment lawsuits, such as wage and hour claims, it is important to consider not only the issues in a case currently facing an employer but also the potential implications of the employer’s position in the current case if other lawsuits or claims are filed later.

Otherwise, an employer’s argument in one case could be used against it in another case.

Facts of the Case

Being a defendant in a Dallas employment law case once is challenging enough, but what happens when a disgruntled employee’s claims are dismissed in federal court but he refiles a second suit in state court?

The answer depends on several factors, each of which must be examined in detail by the court in which the second action is filed.

Facts of the Case

A recent case began with the plaintiff former employee filing suit in federal court against the defendant former employer, asserting claims for both discrimination and a hostile work environment, as well as common law claims associated with the defendant’s alleged disclosure of certain information about him to two police departments. The federal court dismissed the plaintiff’s suit with prejudice. Continue reading

Under both federal and state law, Dallas employees who are not paid the wages to which they are entitled have the right to seek redress in a court of law. Typically, an aggrieved worker files a complaint in court, after which the defendant employer files an answer. Discovery is then conducted. If the parties cannot agree to an amicable settlement at that point, the case proceeds to trial.

Sometimes, however, a case does not follow the usual procedural course. This happened recently, when – for reasons that were not clear from the court’s order – the defendants in a wage and hour case failed to file an answer to the plaintiff’s complaint against them. The plaintiff then sought a default judgment, an option available to her under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 55.

Facts of the Case

In a case that was recently ruled upon by the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Texas, the plaintiff was a woman who alleged that she worked for some 17 weeks without pay. She filed suit seeking relief under both the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and the Texas Minimum Wage Act (TMWA). Her complaint further alleged that she had worked beyond 40 hours per week but had not received overtime pay or even the mandated minimum wage. Continue reading

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