Texas Federal Court Addresses Pregnancy Discrimination Claim | The Law Offices of Gregory D. Jordan

Texas Federal Court Addresses Pregnancy Discrimination Claim

Early February, a federal court issued a written opinion in a Texas employment discrimination lawsuit. The case involved an employee’s allegations that her employer illegally discriminated against her based on her pregnancy, as well as her pregnancy-related disabilities. The woman brought several claims. This case arose when the defendant employer filed a motion for summary judgment, asking the court to dismiss each of the employee’s claims. The court discussed two important issues in its opinion.

First, the court addressed the timeliness of the employee’s claim with the Texas Workforce Commission (TWC). Under Texas law and unless the deadline is deferred, employees who believe that they have been subjected to illegal employment discrimination must file a claim with the Texas Workforce Commission within 180 days. Under recent Supreme Court case law, this requirement is not a jurisdictional one, meaning that non-compliance will not bar a court from hearing a claim. However, the charge-filing requirement is still a mandatory pre-requisite, and can limit the amount of time that a court can consider an employer’s allegedly discriminatory conduct.

As a matter of general procedure, once filed, the Texas Workforce Commission will review the employee’s claim to ensure that it meets all the necessary criteria and, if it does, then provide a “charge of discrimination” form to the employee for her to sign. Once the charge of discrimination form is signed, the TWC will investigate the employee’s claim, sometimes in conjunction with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

The TWC or EEOC can later issue a right to sue letter, and the employee can then file a claim in court. In some rare cases, the EEOC or TWC will sue on an employee’s behalf.

According to the court’s opinion, the employee first noticed that she was being discriminated against in April or May of 2017. The court did not discuss the exact details of the employer’s allegedly discriminatory actions; however, the employee filed a claim with the Texas Workforce Commission on March 20, 2018. Thus, the court noted that it was only able to consider conduct occurring in the 180 days before the complaint was filed. The court explained that there is a possible exception to the 180-day filing requirement when an employer is engaged in continuing violations. However, the employee, in this case, did not allege continuing violations. Thus, although the employee claimed that she was discriminated against starting in April or May of 2017, because she did not file a claim with the TWC until September, the court could only consider potentially discriminatory conduct that occurred on or after September 21, 2017 (180 days before the filing date of March 20, 2018).

Next, the court considered the employee’s claim that her employer interfered with her right to take leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). The FMLA provides employees of certain companies with the right to take leave under certain conditions, including childbirth or a serious health condition. Employers cannot interfere with this right or retaliate against an employee for taking leave under the FMLA. However, employers can terminate an employee for a valid reason, even if they have already arranged to take FMLA leave in the near future. Additionally, an employee who obtained her requested leave cannot file an FMLA interference claim, as she got what it is that she was seeking. However, arguably, any adverse employment action stemming from an employee’s decision to take leave could be considered retaliation if properly plead.

Here, the court noted that the employee asked for, and took, a portion of her FMLA leave. After returning from an initial leave, but before going back on leave in December of 2017, the employee was terminated. Resultingly, the court held that the employee was not able to bring an interference claim as to the portion of her leave that she was able to take. However, the court did allow for the employee to continue with her claim of interference for the unused portion of her leave.

The above discussion illustrates a few of the complex issues that can arise in a Texas employment discrimination case. It is important to keep in mind that, while the case discussed a few of the employee’s claims against her employer, several other claims were not mentioned in the opinion.

Contact a dedicated Austin employment discrimination attorney

At the Law Offices of Gregory D. Jordan, Attorney Jordan represents both employers and employees in all types of Texas employment lawsuits and arbitration matters. Attorney Jordan has over 30 years of relevant experience assisting businesses and employees in Travis County and throughout Central Texas. Contact the Law Offices of Gregory D. Jordan at https://www.theaustintriallawyer.com/.

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