Justia Labor & Employment Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Texas Supreme Court
Univ. of Houston v. Barth
Plaintiff, a professor at the University of Houston, sued the University under the Texas Whistleblower Act. Plaintiff alleged that the University retaliated against him for reporting that his supervisor violated state civil and criminal law and internal administrative policies located in the University's System administrative Memorandum (SAM). The trial court rendered judgment in favor of Plaintiff. The court of appeals affirmed, holding that the trial court had subject-matter jurisdiction over Plaintiff's claim because the SAM's administrative policies constitute "law" under the Whistleblower Act. The Supreme Court reversed and dismissed for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction, holding (1) the SAM's administrative rules do not fall within the definition of "law" under the Whistleblower Act because there is no evidence the University's Board of Regents enacted the SAM's administrative rules pursuant to authority granted to it in the Texas Education Code; (2) there was no evidence that Plaintiff had an objectively reasonable belief that his reports of the alleged violations of state civil and criminal law were made to an appropriate law enforcement authority; and (3) therefore, the University's sovereign immunity was not waived in this case. View "Univ. of Houston v. Barth" on Justia Law
City of Round Rock v. Rodriguez
Firefighter Jamie Rodriguez was called into a meeting with Fire Chief Larry Hodge for an interview of Rodriguez regarding a personnel complaint Hodge had filed against him. Rodriguez requested to have a representative from the Fire Fighters Association present during the interview. Hodge denied the request and interviewed Rodriguez without Association representation. Rodriguez was subsequently suspended for five days. Rodriguez and the Association later filed a declaratory judgment action alleging that Hodge and the City violated Rodriguez's right to union representation and asserting that such a right was conferred by Tex. Lab. Code Ann. 101.001. The trial court granted summary judgment for Rodriguez and the Association, and the court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that section 101.001 does not confer on Texas public-sector employees the right to union representation at an investigatory interview that the employee reasonably believes might result in disciplinary action. View "City of Round Rock v. Rodriguez" on Justia Law
Univ. of Tex. Sw. Med. Ctr. at Dallas v. Gentilello
At issue in this case was whether an employee's report to a supervisor about an employer's or co-worker's "violation of law" is a report to an "appropriate law enforcement authority" under the Texas Whistleblower Act where the employee knows his supervisor's power extends only to ensuring internal compliance with the law purportedly violated. Here the supervisor, while overseeing internal adherence to the law, was empowered only to refer suspected violations elsewhere and lacked free-standing enforcement or crime-fighting authority. Plaintiff filed a whistleblower suit charging that his demotion was in retaliation for reporting the university's violations of unspecified federal patient-care and resident-supervision rules. The lower courts denied the university's plea to the jurisdiction. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) for a plaintiff to satisfy the Act's good-faith provision, the plaintiff must reasonably believe the reported-to authority possess the power to enforce the laws purportedly violated or prosecute suspected criminal wrongdoing; and (2) as no jurisdictionally sufficient evidence existed in this case of any objectively reasonable belief in such power, the case was dismissed for lack of jurisdiction. View "Univ. of Tex. Sw. Med. Ctr. at Dallas v. Gentilello" on Justia Law
Tex. A&M Univ.-Kingsville v. Moreno
Plaintiff sued University, her employer, for a violation of the Texas Whistleblower Act, claiming that her supervisor fired her for reporting to University that the supervisor's daughter had received in-state tuition in violation of state law. Plaintiff contended she satisfied the Act by reporting a violation of law to University's president. The trial court granted the university's plea to the jurisdiction. The court of appeals reversed. The Supreme Court reversed and dismissed the case, holding (1) the Act's restrictive definition of "appropriate law enforcement authority" requires that the reported-to entity be charged with more than mere internal adherence to the law allegedly violated; and (2) the evidence did not support a good-faith belief by Plaintiff that the president had authority to "regulate under or enforce the law alleged to be violated" or to "investigate or prosecute a violation of criminal law." View "Tex. A&M Univ.-Kingsville v. Moreno" on Justia Law
DeLeon v. Royal Indem. Co.
Petitioner suffered an injury while in the course and scope of his employment. The employer's workers' compensation insurance carrier paid medical benefits but contested the extent of Petitioner's entitlement to impairment income benefits. The Department of Insurance's Workers' Compensation Division determined that Petitioner had an impairment rating of twenty percent. The trial court reversed the agency's decision, ruling that Petitioner had no valid impairment rating. The court of appeals affirmed. While Petitioner's appeal to the Supreme Court was pending, the Court held in American Zurich Insurance Co. v. Samudio that the absence of a valid impairment rating that had been submitted to the agency did not deprive a reviewing court of subject matter jurisdiction. In light of its decision in Samudio, the Court then reversed and remanded to the trial court with instructions that the court remand the case to the Division in light of its determination that Petitioner had no valid impairment rating. View "DeLeon v. Royal Indem. Co." on Justia Law
Tex. Mut. Ins. Co. v. Morris
Respondent injured his back while working, and his employer's workers' compensation insurer, Texas Mutual Insurance Company (TMIC), accepted the injury as compensable. Three years later when it was discovered that Respondent had herniated lumbar intervertebral discs, TMIC disputed whether they were causally related to the original injury. The Texas Department of Insurance Division of Workers' Compensation determined that the disc herniations were related to the original injury and ordered TMIC to pay medical benefits, which it did. Respondent later sued TMIC for damages caused by its delay in paying benefits. The trial court rendered judgment for Respondent, and the court of appeals affirmed. Based on the Court's recent decision in Texas Mutual Insurance Co. v. Ruttiger, the Supreme Court reversed and rendered judgment for TMIC. View "Tex. Mut. Ins. Co. v. Morris" on Justia Law
Tex. Comm’n on Human Rights v. Morrison
In this employer retaliation case, a broad-form jury question allowed the jury to find liability based on a legal theory that was jurisdictionally barred and thus could not support liability. The trial court entered a judgment reinstating Employee to her position and awarding her damages and attorney's fees. Employer appealed, arguing that the jury charge allowed a finding of liability based on invalid legal theories. The court of appeals concluded that Employer waived its objection. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) Employer properly preserved its objection; and (2) because the Court could not determine whether the jury relied on the invalid theory, the case was remanded for a new trial. View "Tex. Comm'n on Human Rights v. Morrison" on Justia Law
Manbeck v. Austin Indep. Sch. Dist.
An employee (Employee) of the Austin Independent School District (AISD), a self-insured governmental entity, was injured on the job. AISD acknowledged that Employee had been injured but disputed whether the compensable injury extended to two alleged conditions. A hearing officer sided with Employee on the contested issues, as did the administrative appeals panel. In the district court, Employee filed a counterclaim seeking attorney fees. AISD filed a nonsuit, leaving only the counterclaim for fees. After a jury trial, Employee won a judgment on the verdict that included pre-nonsuit and post-nonsuit attorney fees. The court of appeals found (1) the evidence was sufficient to support the pre-nonsuit fee award, but (2) the post-nonsuit fee award could not stand. AISD brought a petition for review in the Supreme Court, arguing for the first time that governmental immunity from suit barred the award of attorney fees. The Supreme Court reversed in part, holding (1) the defense of sovereign immunity may be raised for the first time on appeal; and (2) AISD was immune from Employee's claim for attorney fees. View "Manbeck v. Austin Indep. Sch. Dist." on Justia Law
Bison Bldg. Materials, Ltd. v. Aldridge
The issue in this case was whether an appellate court has jurisdiction over an appeal from a trial court order confirming an arbitration award in part and vacating the award in part based on the existence of unresolved questions of law or fact necessary to a ruling, yet the trial court did not expressly direct a rehearing. The court of appeals held that it did not have jurisdiction over the appeal, holding (1) the judgment was not final because it did not contain finality language or otherwise state that it was a final judgment and necessarily contemplated resolution of the remaining issues by way of a rehearing, and therefore, the appeal was interlocutory; and (2) no statute permitted an appeal in this case. The Supreme Court affirmed and, for different reasons, dismissed the appeal for want of jurisdiction, holding (1) the appeal was interlocutory; (2) the Texas Arbitration Act did not provide jurisdiction over the interlocutory appeal; and (3) there is no jurisdiction over arbitration awards that are incomplete unless, under certain circumstances, the parties file a writ of mandamus, which neither party here filed. View "Bison Bldg. Materials, Ltd. v. Aldridge" on Justia Law
Tex. W. Oaks Hosp., LP v. Williams
At issue in this interlocutory appeal was whether the claims of an employee against his employer, both of whom were health care providers, alleging injuries arising out of inadequate training, supervision, risk-mitigation, and safety in a mental health facility, constituted health care liability claims (HCLCs) under the Texas Medical Liability Act (Act). Employer filed a motion to dismiss on the grounds that Employee's claims constituted HCLCs under the Act and that Employee had not served an expert report on Employer as required under the Act. The trial court denied Employer's motion. The trial court affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) Employee here was properly characterized as a "claimant" under the Act and his allegations against his nonsubscribing Employer were health care and safety claims under the Act's definition of HCLCs, requiring an expert report to maintain his lawsuit; and (2) the Act does not conflict with the Texas Workers' Compensation Act. Remanded.