Male gender discrimination suit has become 'moot,' appeals court says

David Yates Nov. 24, 2008, 9:36am

Representing the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston, the Texas Attorney General's Office has opted to settle with a disgruntled male employee who claimed gender discrimination.

In April, the Record reported on a discrimination suit filed by Erik Tolpo, a male employee at UTMB Galveston who claimed he was demoted because of his gender.

In his suit, Tolpo says he was demoted because he filed a discrimination complaint against his female supervisor in April 2006. Since that time, Tolpo claimed he worked in a developing pattern of retaliation and discrimination and saw his salary reduced from $62,000 a year to $36,000.

Shortly after the suit was filed, UTMB filed a plea to the jurisdiction motion, arguing Tolpo is a Hardin County resident and UTMB is in Galveston County.

Tolpo, and his attorney Thomas Peterson of Peterson, Petit & Peterson, argued jurisdiction was correct under the Whistleblower Act, the federal law that protects persons who work for the government and report agency misconduct.

Judge Bob Wortham, 58th Judicial District, sided with the plaintiffs and kept the suit in Jefferson County, leading UTMB to file an appeal with the Texas Ninth District Court of Appeals.

The higher court would never hear arguments, however, as a notice of non-suit was officially filed on Nov. 8.

On Nov. 20 the appellate court released a memorandum opinion stating the appeal had been dismissed.

"The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston filed a notice of appeal from the denial of its plea to the jurisdiction," the opinion stated.

"On October 3, 2008, the appellee, Erik Tolpo, informed the Court that the underlying litigation had been non-suited. No party objected to the suggestion of mootness. Accordingly, the appeal is dismissed as moot."

According to Tolpo's original complaint, was a state employee in the hospital's Correctional Managed Care Department. He was a practice manager until he was demoted on Oct. 19, 2006.

He filed suit alleging violations of the Texas Labor Code based on gender discrimination, sexual harassment and retaliation.

"Tolpo would show that because of the retaliation, he has sustained actual damages and reasonable attorneys' fees, for which he seeks to recover herein."

In addition to damages sought, Tolpo was also seeking to be reinstated to his former position.

UTMB was represented in part by attorney Jack O'Donnell from the office of the Texas Attorney General.

Trial case No. A181-529
Appeals case No. 09-08-066 CV

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