Texas Court Affirms Summary Judgment in County Worker’s Retaliatory Discharge Lawsuit

In a Dallas retaliatory discharge case, there are several things that a plaintiff must prove in order to prevail at trial.

One of the most controversial elements in such a case can be the causal connection between an employee’s participation in a protected activity (such as filing a complaint alleging harassment or discrimination) and an adverse employment decision.

While the employer may admit that there was participation in the activity and there was an adverse employment decision, there may have been a non-discriminatory reason for the decision to fire (or not promote, etc.) the worker. In such a case, the plaintiff cannot prevail on his or her retaliatory discharge claim.

Facts of the Case

In a recent case appealed from a decision of the 334th District Court for Harris County, Texas, the plaintiff was a man worked as a juvenile probation officer for the defendant county for several years, beginning in 1996. He filed discrimination charges against the defendant in 2008 and 2012. In 2015, the plaintiff was allegedly denied a promotion in retaliation for his previous discrimination claims.

He filed suit against the defendant county, seeking redress under the Texas Commission on Human Rights Act for alleged retaliation. The defendant filed a combination no-evidence and matter-of-law motion for summary judgment. The trial court granted the defendant’s motion, and the plaintiff appealed.

Decision of the Court

The Court of Appeals for the First District of Texas affirmed the lower court’s ruling. On appeal, the plaintiff argued that the lower tribunal had erred in granting summary judgment to the defendant on his retaliation claim because he had established a causal
link between his protected activity and the adverse employment action of the defendant; according to the plaintiff, the defendant’s alleged non-discriminatory reason for not promoting him was merely pretextual.

In agreeing with the lower court that summary judgment was proper, the appellate court first noted that, under the Act, an employer is prohibited from retaliating against an employee for his or her engagement in certain protected activities. To prevail on a  retaliation claim under the Act, an employee must establish a prima facie case by  showing: (1) he or she engaged in a protected activity; (2) that there was an adverse employment action against him or her; and (3) there was a causal link existed between
the protected activity and the adverse action. Under the Act and existing case law, protected activities include: (1) opposing a discriminatory practice; (2) making or filing a charge; (3) filing a complaint; and (4) testifying, assisting, or participating in any manner in an investigation, proceeding or hearing.

While it was undisputed that the plaintiff engaged in a protected activity by filing his 2008 and 2012 discrimination charges and that an adverse employment action occurred when the plaintiff was denied a promotion, the court held that the plaintiff had presented no evidence that the defendant’s state reason for promoting someone else instead of him was false. Insomuch as the plaintiff had failed to present evidence raising a triable factual issue concerning the alleged causal link for his retaliation claim, the lower court acted correctly in granting summary judgment to the defendant.

Talk to a Dallas Retaliatory Discharge Lawyer

If your business has been accused of an act of discrimination by a former, current, or potential employee, you need reliable legal advice. Key Harrington Barnes handles such cases throughout the greater Dallas area. For an appointment, call us at 214-615-7925.

 

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