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Texas Appeals Court Dismisses Sexual Harassment and Retaliatory Discharge Claims Due to Employee’s Failure to Include Allegations in EEOC Charge

By Key Harrington Barnes, PC

September 10, 2018

When someone believes that their legal rights may have been violated, there are certain rules, procedures, and laws that apply to the assertion of that individual’s claims. In a Dallas sexual harassment or retaliatory discharge case, one of these procedural requirements is the filing of an administrative claim with the appropriate governmental agency.

Sometimes, a claim is made but the employee later tells a different story when suit is filed – one that includes “facts” not initially reported to the governmental agency. In some cases, this can result in dismissal of the subsequent lawsuit against an employer or former employer.

Facts of the Case

In a recent court of appeals case, the plaintiff was a convenience store employee. She was originally hired in 2002, promoted to a managerial position in 2007, and requested a “self-demote” back to store clerk in October 2011. In December 2011, the plaintiff filed a charge of discrimination with the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and the Texas Workforce Commission (TWC), alleging that her supervisor had harassed and intimidated her with the intention of getting her discharged due to her sex and that this amounted to unlawful discrimination in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended. In January 2012, the EEOC issued a dismissal and a notice of the right to sue. The next month, in February 2012, the defendant store terminated the plaintiff’s employment.

The plaintiff filed suit against the defendant in September 2013, alleging sexual harassment dating back to 2009. These claims included unwelcome sexual advances by the supervisor, insults when the advances were refused, and retaliation for not yielding to the advances. The defendant filed a plea to the jurisdiction of the trial court on the basis that the plaintiff had failed to exhaust her administrative remedies by not including her sexual harassment and retaliation claims in her original charge with the EEOC. The trial court sided with the plaintiff on the issue, and the defendant appealed.

Decision of the Court

The Court of Appeals for the Eighth District of Texas rendered judgment dismissing the plaintiff’s case for want of subject matter jurisdiction. Noting that the issue of whether claims filed in a worker’s employment discrimination lawsuit had been properly raised in an administrative charge of discrimination was a recurring issue before the courts, the court of appeals pointed out that a trial can only hear claims that are timely pursued in the administrative review process or claims that are so factually related as to be reasonably expected to grow out of timely filed claims.

In concluding that the plaintiff’s sexual harassment and retaliation claims were not properly raised in the administrative process, the appellate court agreed with the defendant’s characterization of the plaintiff’s EEOC charge as a “bare-bones claim for sex discrimination” that did not include an allegation of sexual harassment or a hostile work environment.

Schedule an Appointment with a Dallas Employment Attorney

There are mandatory, distinct steps that must be followed before a trial court can properly entertain an allegation of workplace misconduct such as sexual harassment. In addition to factual disputes regarding a worker or former worker’s allegations, an employer may have an effective defense under the administrative rules of the courts. If you are a Dallas area employer and need to discuss a matter concerning sexual harassment or retaliatory discharge with experienced legal counsel, call Key Harrington Barnes at 214-615-7925.

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