How to turn a sexy story into a boring court case

Many readers will recall the case of the principal who sent a nude selfie to her husband.  This was a private communication between spouses, perhaps a Valentine’s or birthday gift.  But some unknown person found the picture and, well, you can guess what happened next.  The court tells us that the picture was “widely disseminated within the local community.” 

This is not a good thing for a middle school principal.  On August 25, 2016, the board gave the principal notice of proposed termination.  The board followed through on that, and Commissioner Morath upheld the decision to terminate the principal’s employment.  The Daily Dawg reported the decision on July 19, 2017. 

The principal contended that her termination was an act of sex discrimination.  To pursue this, she filed a complaint with the Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) on January 24, 2017.  I would not bother you with the dates when things happened, but it turns out that the most recent decision is all about timelines rather than sex discrimination, marital privacy or any of the other juicy issues this case presents. 

So here are the relevant dates:

6-22-16: The principal is told she can resign or be fired.

6-23-16:  The principal is informed that she is suspended with pay during an investigation.

7-20-16:  The principal is informed that she will be reassigned.

8-25-16:  The principal receives notice of proposed termination.

1-24-17:   The principal files a sex discrimination complaint with TWC.

11-3-17:   TWC gives the principal a “right to sue” letter.

12-22-17:  The principal files suit against the district.

The law requires that plaintiffs who file a suit over sex discrimination must first file an administrative complaint with the TWC or EEOC.  The plaintiff has 180 days to file that complaint, and the 180 days begin on the date “the alleged unlawful employment practice occurred.” 

So when did the “alleged unlawful employment practice” occur?  The school district argued that it was on 6-22, when the principal was first informed that she was in deep trouble.  If that’s when the 180 days begins, the principal was late in filing with TWC and the case should be dismissed. 

The principal argued that the timeline began to run on 8-25-16 when she got notice of proposed termination. If that’s the case, then she was timely and the case continues.

The Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the principal, noting that “The provisions of the education code and the terms of [the principal’s] contract appear to grant the ECISD Board of Trustees the power to terminate her contract, not the superintendent…”  Thus there was, at a minimum, a factual dispute over when the timeline began to run and the lower court goofed when it dismissed the principal’s case.

We would prefer to be writing about the more interesting issues this case presents, but you have to go with what you’ve got. This is what we’ve got.  Ms. Esparza’s suit against the district will continue. 

The case is Edinburg CISD v. Esparza, decided by the Court of Appeals for Corpus Christi-Edinburg on August 22, 2019.  It ain’t over. Stay tuned.


Tomorrow: Mild Cross-X: a great example