On February 5, 2010, Adan Perez, Jr. was informed that his contract with the Weslaco ISD would not be renewed. Thirteen months later he filed a suit, alleging that the district had retaliated against him for blowing the whistle on illegal activities. The Court of Appeals for Corpus Christi-Edinburg dismissed the lawsuit as untimely.
The Texas Whistleblower Act includes some short timelines, and those timelines are of utmost importance. The plaintiff has just 90 days to file the lawsuit. Those 90 days begin to run on the day when the plaintiff first learns of the alleged retaliatory conduct. In this case, the alleged retaliatory conduct was the nonrenewal of contract, and the plaintiff learned about that on February 5, 2010. He should have filed his suit within the next 90 days. That short statute of limitations is “tolled”—meaning it does not start—if the plaintiff timely files a grievance about the matter with the employer. However, there is a timeline for that grievance as well. Again, it is 90 days. If Mr. Perez would have filed a grievance over this matter by May 3, 2010, the timeline for the lawsuit would have been extended. Mr. Perez did file a grievance, but not until July. Too late.
Mr. Perez argued that the timelines should not have begun until his contract actually came to an end—which was in June, 2010. But in the crucial legal holding in this case, the court noted that “when determining when a cause of action accrues in a whistleblower case, the proper focus is on the time when the employee learned of the allegedly retaliatory conduct and not on the time when the consequences of that decision came to fruition.”
The case is Perez v. Weslaco ISD, decided by the Court of Appeals for Corpus Christi-Edinburg on July 28, 2016. We found it at 2016 WL 4045222.
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