Human Resources has called you into a meeting. At first, you are nervous. You wonder if someone caught you taking Carl’s lunch from the fridge or if all of those pens you accidentally put in your pocket are going to come back to haunt you. But
In order to make a viable retaliation claim, a plaintiff must generally have evidence of each element of a what is called a prima facie case. The phrase prima facie simply means “on first impression.” In the employment law context, a prima facie case means the basic elements of a claim that, if true, give rise to an inference of discrimination or retaliation. So for a retaliation claim, a plaintiff must usually show the following elements (1) that the plaintiff engaged in protected activity, (2) that the plaintiff suffered a materially adverse action, and (3) that a causal link exists between the protected activity and the adverse action. If facts establish each of those elements, then under the law, an inference of retaliation arises, which the defendant must then rebut by producing a legitimate, non-retaliatory reason for the adverse action. The purpose of this post is to briefly discuss what is necessary to show that third all-important causal link element under Fifth Circuit law.
The first thing that needs to be made clear is what level of causation is necessary to show the causal link. The causal link standard is very low. According to the Fifth Circuit, all a plaintiff must show to establish a prima facie causal link is that the protected activity and the adverse action are “not wholly unrelated.” See Medina v. Ramsey Steel Co., 238 F.3d 674, 684 (5th Cir. 2001). So how do you do that?
Hospital workers and employees of other patient care facilities have some of the most difficult jobs out there. The enormous amount of stress, pressure, and difficulty in performing these vital jobs has only been made worse this past year by the global pandemic that has swept across this nation. Given the huge amount of responsibility and the sheer importance of the jobs carried out by hospital workers, it is now more important than ever that COVID-19 safety procedures be followed. This is only possible if workers are allowed to freely report violations of COVID-19 safety procedures. Luckily, Texas law agrees. In this article I will discuss the very basics of the Texas Health and Safety Code and how it may be able to help you create a safer working environment.
Under the Texas Health and Safety Code, employees of hospitals, mental health facilities, and treatment facilities are protected from retaliation by their employers if they make a report of a violation of law, which includes a violation of the code itself, a rule adopted by the code, or a rule of another agency. Moreover, if a time gap of less than 60 days is between when the report is made and an adverse action, which can be a termination, suspension, or a demotion, takes place, the law states that there is a rebuttable presumption that the adverse action took place because of the report.
Even if you’ve never seen the TV show or read any of the books about Perry Mason, criminal defense attorney extraordinaire, you know the moment I’m talking about. It happens at the end each episode or book. Perry Mason is representing an innocent man or woman, but things are not looking good. The District Attorney, Hamilton Burger is on the attack, presenting one damning piece of evidence after another. But then Perry calls one more witness or recalls a witness from earlier in the trial and everything changes. Under withering cross-examination, Perry breaks down the witness by pointing out inconsistencies, falsehoods, and ulterior motives. By the end, the witness is a reduced to a quivering mass of raw nerves. And then the witness confesses! Or points to the real guilty party sitting in the back row of the courtroom. The charges against Perry’s client are quickly dropped and Perry Mason once again emerges victorious.
Continue Reading The Case of the Missing Perry Mason Moment
On August 27, 2020, the Fifth Court of Appeals of Texas at Dallas reversed the dismissal of Fernando Herrera’s Texas Whistleblower case against Dallas Independent School District. In doing so, it ordered the case back to the trial court for further proceedings.
The lawsuit alleges DISD terminated Mr. Herrera because he complained to Child Protective Services (“CPS”) about suspected child abuse by other DISD teachers. The lawsuit was initially filed in June 2018 in Dallas District Court.
The lawsuit states Mr. Herrera made two reports to CPS. The first report was made on or about March 31, 2017 after Mr. Herrera witnessed a DISD teacher inappropriately touching a student in front of several other teachers. The second report was made on May 16, 2017 after a concerned parent informed Mr. Herrera she suspected a teacher inappropriately touched a student. On May 17, 2017, DISD put Mr. Herrera on administrative leave.
The Family and Medical Leave Act provides eligible employees with unpaid, job-protected leave for certain family and medical reasons. When employees request or take leave, these workers have protections from FMLA interference and retaliation. This means that employers may not interfere with a worker’s rights to take FMLA leave and may not take adverse employment actions (e.g., write ups, demotions, terminations) against employees for exercising their rights under the FMLA.
Am I protected under the FMLA?
For employees to have protections under the FMLA, their employer must have a minimum of 50 employees within a 75-mile radius of the work location. Additionally, the employee must have worked for the employer for at least a year and must have worked at least 1,250 hours during that year. If all these conditions are not met, the employee may not be protected by the FMLA.
One would be hard pressed to find someone who does not know that we are afforded free speech under the First Amendment of the United States Constitution. Similarly, we are also afforded the same right under the Texas Constitution Article 1 Section 8. Indeed, there are very few rights that are as well-known as the right to free speech, yet, the implications or effects that this fundamental right has in our workplace are often misunderstood and overestimated. My goal is to help clarify or shed light on a few misconceptions that I often see in my day to day practice.
When someone gets treated unlawfully at their job because of that person’s race, age, gender, sex, sexual orientation, disability, religion, national origin, or color that person suffers more than just loss of income. A person’s job is often tied to their identity, their reputation, their sense of worth, and sense of purpose. Losing a job, not getting a promotion, not getting hired, or being subjected to severe or pervasive harassment causes very real pain and suffering. It can strain friendships, estrange family members, break up marriages, and ruin lives. Because unlawful employment discrimination causes that kind of actual damage, most employment laws allow a person to recover money for those things. In employment law, these damages are called compensatory damages and can be recovered in lawsuits against private employers, state and local government employers, and federal agencies.
Do you find yourself in a situation where you are being discriminated at work, but you have no idea what to even do beyond going to HR? This is probably one of the most common scenarios I encounter during consultations. What I’d like to do is go over some very basic things to keep in mind if you find yourself in a situation where you suspect that you are the victim of discrimination.
Documentation is king.
The very first thing to do is take stock of the documents you have that are related to your employment. For example, any type of disciplinary documents, employee handbook, company memos, pertinent emails, termination letter, any complaints that you have filed or sent to anyone at the company like your boss, HR, or a coworker, or anything that may be relevant.
“While it is true that these statements are few in number, and that much of the meeting was spent discussing other subjects, their number does not strip the statements of their status as evidence. After a court draws the negative inference that Sheriff Cutler was negatively referencing Haverda’s letter to the editor, the amount of…