Articles Posted in Labor & Employment Law

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The Texas Whistleblower Act (WBA) does not apply to open-enrollment charter schools operated by a tax-exempt entity. Petitioner operated an open-enrollment charter school that provided tuition-free public education to students on multiple campuses. Respondent, a teacher for the school, sued the school for violating the WBA by retaliating against her. The trial court denied the school’s plea to the jurisdiction asserting immunity from suit. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that because the WBA contains no specific statement that it applies to open-enrollment charter schools, see section 12.1058(c) of the Texas Charter Schools Act, it does not apply to open-enrollment charter schools. View "Neighborhood Centers Inc. v. Walker" on Justia Law

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In this dispute governed by a collective bargaining agreement between a county and its deputy constables, the Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the court of appeals ruling that deputy constables are “police officers” entitled to enter into collective bargaining agreements (CBAs) with their public employers under Tex. Loc. Gov’t Code Ann. 174 and that the arbitrator did not exceed his authority in awarding relief to the deputy constables. The county petitioned to vacate the arbitrator’s award, arguing that the arbitrator exceeded his authority in concluding that the county violated the CBA by eliminating several deputy constable positions without regard to seniority and ordering the county to reinstate the deputies in order of seniority. The trial court granted the county’s motion for summary judgment and rendered final judgment in its favor. The court of appeals reversed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that deputy constables are “police officers” under the CBA, that the CBA was valid and enforceable, and that the arbitrator did not exceed his authority in ordering the deputies’ reinstatement on a seniority basis. View "Jefferson County v. Jefferson County Constables Ass’n" on Justia Law

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At issue in this appeal was whether the Alamo Heights Independent School District was immune from Employee’s suit alleging Texas Commission on Human Rights Act (TCHRA) claims. The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals and rendered judgment dismissing Employee’s TCHRA claims in which she alleged same-sex harassment and bullying by female coaches in the girls athletic department at a San Antonio middle school. The Court held (1) the record bore no evidence that the inappropriate conduct alleged was gender motivated, and therefore, the evidence did not raise an inference of gender-motivated discrimination; (2) Employee did not produce evidence to support her retaliation claim when no presumption of unlawful retaliation existed under the McDonnell Douglas burden-shifting framework; and (3) governmental immunity was not waived in this case, and subject-matter jurisdiction was lacking. View "Alamo Heights Independent School District v. Clark" on Justia Law

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Except in rare circumstances, when the admissibility of a video is at issue, the proper exercise of discretion requires the trial court to actually view the video evidence before ruling on its admissibility. The trial court in this personal-injury suit arising from a workplace accident excluded video evidence without watching it. The video was taken by an investigator hired by the employer and recorded the employee engaging in physical activities over the course of two days. The employer sought to admit the surveillance video into evidence to support its defensive theory that the employee was overstating his pain and downplaying his ability to return to some form of work. Because the surveillance video was highly probative in this case, the Supreme Court reversed the judgment entered in favor of the employee awarding him nearly $10 million, holding that the video should not have been excluded under Tex. R. Evid. 403, and the trial court’s abuse of discretion was harmful. View "Diamond Offshore Services Ltd. v. Williams" on Justia Law

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The Division of Workers’ Compensation has exclusive jurisdiction over statutory and tort claims alleging the Texas Workers’ Compensation Act’s “bona fide offer of employment” process was misused to fabricate grounds for firing a covered employee. Employee sued Employer’s workers’ compensation carrier and its agent (collectively, Accident Fund), alleging retaliation, conspiracy, and tortious interference claims. Specifically, Employee claimed that Accident Fund participated in the bona-fide-employment-offer-process and that his job offers were “bogus,” thus serving as a pretext for terminating him. Accident Fund filed a plea to the jurisdiction, asserting that exclusive jurisdiction lay with the Division of Workers’ Compensation. The trial court denied the plea. Accident Fund filed a petition for mandamus relief, which the court of appeals denied. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the Division had exclusive jurisdiction over Employee’s claims against Accident Fund; and (2) because Employee did not exhaust administrative remedies through the workers’ compensation administrative process before filing suit, mandamus relief for Accident Fund was appropriate. View "In re Accident Fund General Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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At issue in this workers’ compensation was the meaning of the word “issue” as used in Title 5 of the Labor Code. The trial court ruled that Respondent did not suffer a compensable injury and was therefore not entitled to workers’ compensation. The court also granted the State Office of Risk Management’s (SORM) motion for summary judgment on the ground that Respondent violated a statute by working from home. The court of appeals reversed the grant of summary judgment for SORM and affirmed the denial of Respondent’s motion for summary judgment, concluding that because SORM never presented the statutory-violation ground to the appeals panel at the administrative level, the panel necessarily could not have “decided” that “issue,” and therefore, the Labor Code barred the trial court from exercising jurisdiction over SORM’s motion. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part, holding (1) the statutory ground SORM argued in its summary judgment motion was an argument supporting resolving in SORM’s favor the issue of whether Respondent was in the course and scope of her employment at the time of her accident, and therefore, SORM was free to raise the statutory argument at any time; and (2) Respondent’s motion for summary judgment was properly denied. View "State Office of Risk Management v. Martinez" on Justia Law

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In this admiralty law case, a certain vessel - taken out of service, subjected to a twenty-month conversion process, and unable to engage in transportation during the entirety of the claimant’s onboard employment - was “out of navigation” as a matter of law and thus outside the Jones Act. Kelvin Gold, an employee of Helix Energy Solutions Group, reported injuries suffered aboard the HELIX 534 and sued Helix for additional maintenance-and-cure benefits, as well as actual and punitive damages. Gold claimed those remedies under the Jones Act as a “seaman” aboard a “vessel in navigation.” During the entire time Gold worked aboard the 534 the ship lacked the ability to navigate on her own due to the overhaul of her engines. The trial court granted summary judgment for Helix, concluding that the 534 was not a vessel in navigation under undergoing the overhaul. The court of appeals reversed, finding a fact question. The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the court of appeals and reinstated the trial court’s summary judgment, holding as a matter of law that the 534 was not in navigation and therefore that the Jones Act did not apply during the course of Gold’s employment. View "Helix Energy Solutions Group, Inc. v. Gold" on Justia Law

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This action stemmed from a “without cause” termination of Plaintiff’s five-year employment contract at the end of his third contract year. Plaintiff brought claims against his former employer, its chief executive officer, and its professional services company for, inter alia, breach of contract and tortious interference with contract. The trial court granted summary judgment for Defendants. The court of appeals reversed the trial court’s dismissal of the claims for breach of contract and tortious interference. The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals and reinstated the trial court’s judgment in favor of Defendants, holding (1) the employer was entitled to summary judgment on the breach of contract claim where the employer was not required to prove the reasons it terminated Plaintiff’s employment contract “without cause” an the relevant provisions of the contract were not ambiguous; (2) Defendants were entitled to summary judgment on the tortious interference claim where Plaintiff presented no evidence of willful or intentional interference; and (3) the employer’s professional services company was entitled to Plaintiff’s tortious interference claim where it conclusively established its justification defense to the claim. View "Community Health Systems Professional Services Corp. v. Hansen" on Justia Law

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A jury awarded Plaintiff future lost profits based on Defendants’ failure to comply with their covenants not to compete and covenants not to solicit. The jury also awarded Plaintiff exemplary damages and attorney fees. The trial court awarded Plaintiff the full amount of damages. The court of appeals reversed and rendered a take-nothing judgment in part and remanded in part, concluding, inter alia, that the evidence was legally insufficient to support the jury’s award of future lost profits and that the exemplary damages award was unconstitutionally excessive. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part, holding (1) the court of appeals did not err in concluding that the evidence of future lost profits was legally insufficient; (2) the court of appeals’ remitted exemplary damages award was unconstitutionally excessive; and (3) the court of appeals properly found that remand of the issue of attorney’s fees was proper. The court remanded the case to the court of appeals so that it may reconsider its suggested remittitur of exemplary damages. View "Horizon Health Corp. v. Acadia Healthcare Co." on Justia Law

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When Respondent’s employer received a report that Respondent failed an employment-related drug test, the employer ceased assigning Respondent any work. Respondent filed this lawsuit against his employer, WHM Custom Services, Inc.; the owner of the refinery, Exxon Mobil; and the drug-testing administrator, DISA, Inc. , asserting various claims against each of the three defendants. The trial court granted summary judgment for Defendants on all but one claim, which it dismissed for lack of jurisdiction. The court of appeals reversed and reinstated three of Respondent’s claims against Exxon, four claims against WHM, and two claims against DISA. The Supreme Court reversed in part, vacated in part, and rendered judgment reinstating the trial court’s take-nothing judgment against Respondent, holding that the trial court correctly granted summary judgment for Exxon, WHM, and DISA. View "Exxon Mobile Corp. v. Rincones" on Justia Law