Saturday, June 25, 2011

TCHRA: Types of Discrimination Claims under Texas anti-discrimination act (employment)

TCHRA CLAIM [discrimination in employment under state law] [TCHRA=TEXAS COMMISSION ON HUMAN RIGHTS ACT] Because the TCHRA’s stated purpose is to “provide for the execution of the policies of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and its subsequent amendments,” Texas courts apply analogous federal case law when interpreting the Texas statute. Id. § 21.001(1); Quantum Chem. Corp. v. Toennies, 47 S.W.3d 473, 476 (Tex. 2001). There are two types of Title VII employment discrimination cases. Quantum Chem., 47 S.W.3d at 476. The first is the “pretext” case, in which the plaintiff claims the employer’s stated reason for the adverse action was a pretext for discrimination. Tex. Dep’t of Cmty. Affairs v. Burdine, 450 U.S. 248, 252–53 (1981); McDonnell Douglas Corp. v. Green, 411 U.S. 792, 802–04 (1973). In a pretext case, federal and Texas courts traditionally follow the McDonnell Douglas-Burdine framework for allocation of proof. E.g., Shackelford v. Deloitte & Touche, LLP, 190 F.3d 398, 404 n.2 (5th Cir. 1999); Quantum Chem., 47 S.W.3d at 479–80; Claymex Brick & Tile, Inc. v. Garza, 216 S.W.3d 33, 35 (Tex. App.—San Antonio 2006, no pet.). Under the McDonnell Douglas-Burdine framework, the plaintiff-employee has the burden of producing evidence that raises an inference of discrimination. Russo v. Smith Int’l, Inc., 93 S.W.3d 428, 435 (Tex. App.—Houston [14th Dist.] 2002, pet. denied). The plaintiff’s burden at this stage “is not onerous.” Quantum Chem., 47 S.W.3d at 477 (quoting Burdine, 450 U.S. at 253). A prima facie case of age discrimination requires proof that the plaintiff (1) is at least forty years of age; (2) was discharged; (3) was qualified for the position from which he was discharged; and (4) was replaced by someone under forty, replaced by someone younger, or was otherwise discharged because of age. Russo, 93 S.W.3d at 435. If the plaintiff makes this showing, the burden then shifts to the defendant-employer to articulate a “legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason” for the plaintiff’s discharge. Quantum Chem., 47 S.W.3d at 477 (quoting McDonnell Douglas, 411 U.S. at 802). If the defendant can articulate such a reason, the presumption of discrimination created by the plaintiff’s prima facie showing is eliminated, and the burden shifts back to the plaintiff to show the defendant’s stated reason was a pretext for discrimination. Id. The Texas Supreme Court has held that under the TCHRA, a plaintiff need only prove that age discrimination was “a motivating factor” in the termination decision. Id. at 480. The second type of employment discrimination case is the mixed-motive case, in which the plaintiff has direct evidence of discrimination in the employment decision. Price Waterhouse v. Hopkins, 490 U.S. 228, 244–45 (1989). Whether a case will be classified as a pretext case or a mixed-motive case “depends entirely” on whether the plaintiff has direct evidence that discriminatory motives influenced the employer’s decision to terminate the plaintiff. Quantum Chem., 47 S.W.3d at 476. If the plaintiff has only circumstantial evidence that the employment decision was motivated by discrimination, the case will be classified as a pretext case “regardless of how many motives the employer had.” Id. at 477. SOURCE: San Antonio Court of Appeals - 04-10-00730-CV - 6/22/11

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