Nonrenewal of Texas Teacher’s Contract Following “Grabbing” Incident with Student Upheld on Appeal

No one likes to be terminated from their employment. The loss of income and benefits, not to mention the embarrassment of being fired, can be very difficult. Too often, those who have lost their jobs look for someone to blame. The easiest target? Their former employer, of course. Fortunately for the employer, the former employee must provide evidence – and not mere baseless allegations – supporting his or her claim of Texas employment discrimination or other wrongful conduct.

Facts of the Case

In a recent Texas appeals court case, the plaintiff was former teacher who was allegedly asked to resign from her position following a 2016 incident in which she “roughly grabbed” a 3rd grade student who was under her supervision, causing minor soft tissue damage to the child. The event in question occurred in February 2016 and was investigated by Child Protective Services. The Texas Commissioner of Education found that the plaintiff’s employment contract should not be renewed due to the incident. The plaintiff appealed the Commissioner’s decision, but the decision was affirmed on appeal.

Meanwhile, the plaintiff filed a complaint with the Texas Workforce Commission Division of Civil Rights, complaining of age discrimination and retaliation based on the nonrenewal of her contract. After receiving a right-to-sue letter, the plaintiff filed suit against the defendant in the 444th District Court of Cameron County, Texas. The defendant, in turn, filed a plea to the jurisdiction of the trial court. The court denied the plea, and the defendant appealed.

Decision of the Court

On appeal to the Court of Appeals for the Thirteenth District of Texas at Corpus Christi – Edinburg, the defendant argued that it had governmental immunity from suit unless the plaintiff was able to state a claim for conduct that was in violation of the Texas Commission of Human Rights Act. According to the defendant’s argument on appeal, the plaintiff could not establish the elements of her claim under the Act due to collateral estoppel. After considering the defendant’s argument, the appeals court reversed the trial court’s decision and rendered judgment dismissing the plaintiff’s case.

In so holding, the court of appeals noted that the fact underlying the plaintiff’s nonrenewal claim were the same as those upon which she based her retaliation and discrimination claims. Because the plaintiff had not alleged any additional facts which may have occurred after the Commissioner’s decision, the district court had no jurisdiction to hear the plaintiff’s case. According to the appellate court, the plaintiff was merely attempting to re-litigate the issue of the nonrenewal of her contract, which already been decided in a separate case.

Learn More About Our Services

At Key Harrington Barnes, our team of experienced Dallas employment discrimination defense attorneys are here to provide the advice that your business needs when faced with an allegation from a current, former, or potential employee. To set up a consultation to learn how we may be of service to you during this challenging time, call us at 214-615-7925. Our firm also handles sexual harassment defense, wage and hour litigation, government regulation, oil and gas law, real estate law, and union relations.

Contact Information