March, 2015 | The Law Offices of Gregory D. Jordan

Texas woman sues Central United Life, claiming age and race discrimination

A Texas woman has filed a lawsuit against her former employer, claiming that she was denied promotions based on her race and age, then fired after she filed grievances.

Linda J. Donnie is suing Central United Life, claiming employment discrimination. Donnie filed the lawsuit in the Houston Division of the Southern District of Texas on October 27.

The lawsuit claims that Donnie was hired as associate manager of the underwriting department of Central United Life. She had 14 years of prior experience. According to the complaint, positions under Donnie were eliminated, leaving her solely responsible for the department. The complaint alleges that after a younger white woman was hired as chief operations officer, Donnie, an African-American, began to have her decisions questioned and overriden. Donnie claims that she was presented in a bad light to the corporation and to customers.

The lawsuit states that after Donnie filed a grievance, she was required to participate in an “improvement plan” and experienced a hostile work environment. She was ultimately dismissed for stated grounds based on an underwriting decision she had made a year earlier. The lawsuit claims age discrimination, racial discrimination, retaliation and harassment. Donnie is seeking damages, front and back pay, reinstatement and an injunction against further discrimination.

Texas Federal jury finds Apache did not breach contract with W&T Offshore

A Texas federal jury found that Apache Corp. did not breach its contract with W&T Offshore Inc., a Houston-based oil and gas producer, in a dispute that began in 2011.

The jury verdict was accepted by the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas, while allowing W&T to file any post-verdict motions.

Apache Corp., an independent oil and gas exploration and production company, has operations in Canada and Egypt, in addition to the United States. W&T Offshore has operations in approximately 66 offshore fields in the Gulf of Mexico. W&T also has onshore operations in the Permian Basin of West Texas, but a substantial majority of the company’s operations are offshore.

W&T filed the lawsuit against Apache, also based in Houston, in 2011, claiming that the energy company breached a processing contract and recorded inaccurate figures regarding how much processed oil was owed to W&T.

Apache has now filed a countersuit claiming $31.5 million in damages. Apache representatives stated that W&T breached the joint operating agreement by failing to pay its assigned share of 49 percent of costs associated with plugging and abandoning three Gulf of Mexico offshore wells.

An Apache spokesman said that W&T refused to comply with “clear contractual obligations,” leading Apache to file the countersuit.

More Texas Workers Are Filing Wage-and-Hour Lawsuits

Lawsuits filed by Texas workers claiming wage-and-hour violations have increased by 42 percent over the past three years and have tripled in the past ten years. According to research by Androvett Legal Media, Texas workers filed at least 922 federal lawsuits in 2014 — compared to 632 cases in 2012 and 280 lawsuits in 2004. In 2013, workers filed 1,128 such cases.

In 2014, the U.S. Department of Labor opened new offices in Austin and Temple in 2014 to handle an increased number of complaints the agency is receiving, as well as the increased litigation.

Lawsuits and complaints have been filed over a variety of issues. In one example, employers have required workers to show up to work at a particular time, but did not start the pay clock until later. Other cases involve employers who have refused to pay when employees work overtime without obtaining pre-approval.

Many of the lawsuits are filed under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), the 1938 law that created the 40-hour workweek and established overtime pay and the minimum wage.

Legal experts say that a number of factors have contributed to the increase in litigation, including that workers have become more knowledgeable about the law. There has also been growth in small businesses that may not be aware of the law’s requirements. In addition, the statute provides for legal fees, making it relatively easy for workers to obtain legal representation than for other types of cases.

In December 2014, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on a case involving workers’ pay. In a unanimous decision, the court held that a temp agency did not have to pay Amazon warehouse workers for the time they spent in a security screening checkpoint as they exited their workplace.

Secretary sues school district for discrimination and harassment

A Texas woman has filed a lawsuit against the school district that formerly employed her as a secretary at a public school. She alleges that she suffered discrimination and harassment during the time that she was employed there.

Tesha Faith Garganta filed the lawsuit against the Spring Independent School District on February 6 in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas, Houston Division. Five staff members were also named as defendants: Jeremy Hubbard, dean of instruction; Dean McKeithen, human resources director; Julie Allen, Title IX coordinator; Lenny Hardoin, principal; and Ralph H. Draper, superintendent.

The lawsuit alleges that on November 5, 2013, while Garganta was employed at Edwin M. Wells Middle School as a secretary and bookkeeper, she asked Hubbard to show her where supplies were kept in a room. The complaint alleges that Hubbard followed her into the room, closed the door and made remarks of a sexual nature. The lawsuit also alleges that further incidents took place in December 2013.

According to the complaint, Garganta’s work performance and health were affected by the discrimination and harassment, and no corrective action was taken by the school district. Garganta is seeking damages for lost wages, physical and emotional distress, impairment of earning capacity, medical expenses, punitive damages and attorney’s fees and costs.

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