Dismissal on a technicality?

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Patricia Mayers sued United ISD alleging that the district discriminated against her based on her sex, her age, and her national origin. However, two of those claims were dismissed by the court on procedural grounds. The court noted that Ms. Mayers original complaints with the EEOC and the Texas Workforce Commission failed to mention age or national origin. They only cited sex discrimination. That charge was allowed to go forward, but the age and national origin complaints were tossed out.

Many people would describe this ruling as based on a technicality. The court never got to the substance of the matter, so it made no fact findings and came to no conclusions about how Ms. Mayers was treated by the district. Instead it held that the courts lack jurisdiction to even consider her allegations about age and national origin because she did not include them in her original charge.

Technicality? The Dawg takes no position on that, but I will point out the logical basis for the court’s ruling. We have set up administrative agencies (EEOC and TWC) to investigate complaints of illegal discrimination. The law requires that a complaining party go to the administrative agency first. The idea is that many complaints will be resolved at that level, and those that are not resolved will be investigated by an agency with expertise in this area of the law. So if a party fails to mention a category of possible discrimination, it gums up the works. It deprives the agency of the opportunity to investigate that matter, and deprives the employer of the opportunity to defend itself from the charge in the administrative process.

That’s what happened here. The court put it this way:

In the administrative charge, Mayers alleged that UISD had treated her differently than two male teachers and stated, “I believe I was discriminated against because of my sex, female.” She also contended UISD had retaliated against her for complaining about the alleged discriminatory treatment. The administrative charge did not claim that UISD discriminated against Mayers based on any other protected characteristics.

Was the case dismissed on a technicality? Or is this just the evenhanded application of a sensible rule?

It’s United ISD v. Mayers, decided by the Court of Appeals in San Antonio on February 15, 2023. It’s cited at 2023 WL 2004407.


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