Texas Court Dismisses Employment Discrimination and Retaliation Suit Due to Failure to Timely Exhaust Administrative Remedies Against Employer

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.

The Court’s Decision

The Court of Appeals for the First District of Texas vacated the decision of the lower court and dismissed the plaintiff’s case. In its sole issue, the defendant contended that the trial court lacked subject-matter jurisdiction over the plaintiff’s claims because the evidence established that she did not timely exhaust her administrative remedies under the Act. The appellate court agreed with the defendant that the plaintiff’s attempt to seek an administrative remedy was untimely, thus depriving the trial court of jurisdiction over her subsequent lawsuit.

Because the defendant established, as a matter of law, that the plaintiff did not file her complaint with the TWC within 180 days of when she “first learned about the discriminatory acts,” the court agreed with the defendant that the plaintiff’s discrimination and retaliation claims were barred by sovereign immunity. Accordingly, the trial court lacked subject-matter jurisdiction over the plaintiff’s lawsuit and should have granted the defendant’s plea to the jurisdiction.

Contact an Employment Law Attorney in the Dallas Area

Just as it is crucial for a would-be plaintiff to take timely legal action, a defendant’s presentation of a prompt and credible defense to an allegation of wrongful conduct in the workplace is essential in today’s litigious environment. If your office or business is (or may soon be) facing a possible discrimination lawsuit, it is important that you talk to a seasoned Dallas employment discrimination lawyer as soon as possible. To schedule an appointment to discuss your situation with a member of our team, call Key Harrington Barnes at 214-615-7925 and ask for an appointment. We look forward to working with you to present the most effective defense possible under the circumstances giving rise to the relevant claim.

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