Texas Court Dismisses Multiple Employment Law Claims Brought by Disgruntled County Employee

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.

The trial court denied the defendant’s plea to the jurisdiction of the court, and the defendant appealed.

The Court’s Resolution of the Issues

On appeal, the defendant argued that the lower tribunal should have dismissed all of the plaintiff’s claims in response to its plea to the jurisdiction. The Court of Appeals for the Ninth District of Texas at Beaumont agreed that the trial court had committed a reversible error, holding that the plaintiff’s suit should have been dismissed due to her failure to meet her burden of establishing that the trial court possessed jurisdiction to conduct additional proceedings in the case.

In so holding, the court concluded that the plaintiff was unable to provide a prima facie case rebutting the defendant’s evidence that its decisions about her employment were unrelated to her alleged refusal to cooperate in the investigation of her co-worker. The court also found that the plaintiff had failed to exhaust her administrative remedies as to some of her claims. The court found that there was point in allowing the plaintiff to attempt to re-plead any of her claims, as the record showed that the lower court was without jurisdiction under the circumstances presented.

Call a Dallas Employment Lawyer

If your business has been sued by a current or former employee, or if you believe that litigation may occur in the near future, you need to talk to an experienced Dallas employment litigation defense attorney as soon as possible. At the law offices of Key Harrington Barnes, we handle many different types of employment law cases, and we welcome the chance to serve your legal needs. Call us at 214-615-7925 to schedule a consultation to discuss your case.

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