Texas Court of Appeals Finds Lack of Prima Facie Evidence of Alleged Employment Discrimination Based on Race

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No one likes being fired, laid-off, or included in a reduction in workforce. However, the economic realities of doing business sometimes dictate that these things happen. Unfortunately, not every employee accepts bad news with equal grace. While reasonable workers will get busy finding their next job, a few disgruntled former employees will instead take out their frustration by filing ungrounded Texas employment discrimination claims against their former employer.

Facts of the Case

The plaintiff in a recent case was a Hispanic male who worked in the information technology division of the defendant health and hospital system beginning in 2006. He filed suit seeking relief under Chapter 21 of the Texas Labor Code, alleging that his job was terminated as a result of both discrimination and retaliation. The defendant filed a plea to the jurisdiction of the court, asserting that the plaintiff failed to present evidence sufficient to raise a factual issue in response to its challenge to the prima facie elements of his claims.

The trial court denied the relief sought by the defendant, and it filed an interlocutory appeal.

Decision of the Court

The Court of Appeals for the Fifth District Court at Dallas reversed the trial court’s order denying relief to the defendant and dismissed the plaintiff’s case for want of jurisdiction. While the plaintiff characterized his former workplace as an environment in which “team brown” and the “redneck country club” were continually at odds with one another and claimed that his dismissal was due to his race and/or in retaliation for complaints he had made about racism in the workplace, the court of appeals disagreed.

Rather, the court noted that the defendant had decided to outsource the tasks previously performed by not only the plaintiff but his entire team. All positions in his area of employment were eliminated. This decision was made by an executive who shared the plaintiff’s race and ultimately affected Caucasian, as well as Hispanic, employees. Because the decision to terminate the plaintiff’s employment was made by someone in his same protected class, there was a presumption that unlawful discrimination was not a factor in the discharge. While circumstances can sometimes overcome this presumption, this did not happen in the instant case, and the trial court should have granted the defendant’s plea to the jurisdiction of the plaintiff’s claims.

In so holding, the court rejected the plaintiff’s contention of a “cat’s paw” theory of liability, noting that the plaintiff had failed to identify another employee with a retaliatory animus who influenced the decision to take action against him. The plaintiff’s speculation that white male members of the defendant’s information technology division were “involved” was insufficient to create a fact issue.

Speak to a Dallas Employment Discrimination Defense Attorney

Not every claim of employment discrimination is well-founded. If your business has been accused of wrongful conduct, you have every right to defend yourself within the bounds of the law. For an appointment to discuss your case with an experienced Dallas employment discrimination defense attorney, call the law firm of Key Harrington Barnes at 214-615-7925 today. We’ll be glad to schedule an appointment for you to come in and discuss the details of your case with a member of our legal team.

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