When Does the Timeline Begin?

Denise Reyes sued the district where she used to work, claiming that her termination was based on her national origin, her gender and her previous complaints of sexual harassment.  She lost her case because the court held that she took too long to file her complaints of illegal discrimination with the Texas Workforce Commission.  The timeline for filing such a complaint is 180 days.  This case turned on the court’s analysis of when that timeline started.

Ms. Reyes was a teacher under a contract.  A teacher’s contract is not terminated until the board takes final action to terminate it.  This usually comes only after a hearing by an independent examiner who has recommended termination.  This is exactly what happened in this case and the final action of the board to terminate the teacher’s employment happened on January 11, 2012.  Ms. Reyes filed with the Workforce Commission on May 23, 2012—exactly 133 days later.

So she was on time, right?

Wrong.  The court held that the timeline began on August 29, 2011.  That was the day when the district sent her a letter to notify her that the board had accepted the superintendent’s recommendation to terminate her employment.

So even though the August letter was couched in terms of a “proposed” termination, even though the teacher remained under contract and on the payroll until January 11, 2012, the court held that the “alleged unlawful employment practice” occurred months earlier when she was told that she might be fired.  With the timeline starting in August, the complaint to the Workforce Commission the following May was too late.

The case is Reyes v. San Felipe Del Rio CISD, decided by the Court of Appeals in San Antonio on March 7, 2018. We found it at 2018 WL 1176487.


 Tomorrow: What is an “ultimate” employment decision? Why does it matter?