Justices conclude trial court should have dismissed discrimination claim against UT Health

By David Yates | Apr 3, 2018

HOUSTON – The First Court of Appeals recently concluded that a trial court should have dismissed a discrimination claim brought against the UT Health Science Center-Houston.

Former UT Health employee Christie Carver filed her suit in 2015 in Harris County District Court, alleging employment discrimination and retaliation.

In response, UT Health filed a plea to the jurisdiction as to Carver’s claims for disparate treatment based on race and gender, hostile work environment, and retaliation, court records show.

The trial court presiding over the case denied the plea, prompting UT Health to appeal the decision on Dec. 28, 2016.

On March 27, the First Court reversed the trial court in part but also affirmed the judgment in part.

“Because we conclude that the trial court should have dismissed Carver’s claim for gender-based disparate-treatment discrimination, we reverse the trial court’s order in part, and we otherwise affirm the order,” the opinion states.

“As to retaliation, there are questions of fact about whether Carver participated in a protected activity by reporting and opposing discriminatory behavior, to whom she made such reports, and what she said. Because there is a question as to a jurisdictional fact, the trial court properly denied the plea to the jurisdiction.”

Case history

Carver, who is Caucasian, worked as a telephone-triage nurse for UT Health for approximately 18 weeks in 2014. She contends that her supervisor, David Riley, who is African-American, harassed her, threatened her with physical violence, and treated her in an abusive manner due to her gender and race, court records state.

She further contends that Riley treated other non-African-American female nurses the same way, but he behaved much differently toward the only African-American female nurse in the telephone-triage department.

Carver complained to Sandra Kelley, the human-resources representative, and Dr. Sandra Tyson, the department manager, but her complaints were not addressed. She further contends that the mistreatment continued and worsened after she filed a grievance with Dr. Tyson and later appealed its disposition.

In the grievance, Carver asserted that hostile working conditions persisted in the department where she worked. She alleged that the nurses had been targets for Riley’s volatile temper, bullying, and inappropriate reprimands.

Carver eventually resigned, and about a month later, she filed a discrimination charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the Texas Workforce Commission.

About a year after that, Carver sued UT Health for violations of the Texas Commission on Human Rights Act.

UT Health is represented by attorney Frank Anthony King.

Carver is represented by attorney Craig Keener.

Appeals case No. 01-16-01010-CV

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