Austin Court of Appeals holds ex-professor properly alleged disability and age discrimination claim even where there is no legal obligation to renew a term contract

 

Texas State University v. Dr. Kathleen Quinn 03-16-00548-CV (Tex.App—— Austin, Texas November 29,2017)

This is an interlocutory appeal from the denial of a plea to the jurisdiction in an employment-discrimination dispute where the Austin Court of Appeals affirmed the denial.

Quinn accepted an “emergency hire”  professor position for the University’s doctoral nursing program when it was just starting the program. When the University made the position permanent, Quinn applied.   She was  had progressive and severe nerve damage to her hands and feet. The pain in her feet made walking difficult. She requested an accommodation while in the temporary position, but nothing was done. The University did not hire Quinn and did not renew her contract the following year. She sued the University claiming disability and age discrimination and retaliation. She cast her case against the University as one coming within the terms of the Texas Labor Code section 21.051. The University filed a plea to the jurisdiction, which was denied. It appealed.

The court held “[c]ontrary to the University’s argument, Quinn discharged her pleading requirement in her amended petition by asserting in minute detail the facts supporting her discrimination and retaliation claims. [she] filed a lengthy fact-studded response in which she marshaled evidence in support of each contested element of her discrimination and retaliation claims.”  Quinn brought forward evidence that she was qualified for the job she had and for the post she sought. Apparently satisfied with her qualifications, the University kept her on for two years in “emergency hire” status. The University argued because there is no legal obligation to renew a term contract, as a matter of law no “adverse action” can occur.  However, the court declined to make that holding as a bright line rule. Quinn established she was replaced by a non-disabled, younger female. She also complained to her employers about the failure to accommodate her disability, which can form the basis of her retaliation claim. As a result, the plea was properly denied.

If you want to read the opinion, click here. The panel consists of Justices Puryear, Field and Shannon. Justice Shannon delivered opinion of the court. To see the attorneys listed for the Appellant and Appellee’s click here.


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