Discrimination case against Jasper ISD remanded back to trial court by 9th District

By Charmaine Little | Jun 21, 2018

BEAUMONT – Jasper Independent School District’s win in the 1st District Court of Jasper County was reversed and remanded after a woman filed an appeal in the Court of Appeals for the 9th District of Texas at Beaumont.

"We conclude that the trial court erred by impliedly applying the mailbox rule, impliedly finding that (Jacqueline) Martin’s lawsuit was not timely filed, and granting the plea to the jurisdiction," Justice Steve McKeithen wrote in the June 14 opinion.

Martin, an African-American woman who sued Jasper ISD over allegations of discrimination, challenged the 1st District Court’s decision that green-lighted the school district’s plea to the jurisdiction. Martin argued the lower court’s decision was incorrect when it ruled her claim wasn’t in a timely manner and used the timeframe of the complaint in its jurisdiction argument.

Martin alleges the school district demoted her and replaced her with as a “less qualified white female,” according to the court's opinion. Martin alleged she was also not given an interview she sought when a different position became available. 

She filed a lawsuit stating the defendant infringed on the Texas Labor Code and retaliated against her. Jasper ISD then submitted a plea to the jurisdiction and original answer, which the lower court granted as Jasper ISD stated her filing was outside of the allotted timeframe.

Because of the timing, the school district maintained Martin’s claim didn’t have standing, the school district didn’t surrender its immunity as a governmental organization, and that the court didn’t have subject matter jurisdiction. 

The school district said the Texas Workforce Commission informed Martin’s lawyer via letter that Martin had 60 days after July 28, 2016, to file a lawsuit. The right to sue allegedly expired on Sept. 29, 2016. The defendant’s legal team submitted documentation that Martin’s lawyer didn’t respond until Oct. 3, 2016, the opinion states.

Still, Martin submitted into evidence screenshots that the right to sue notification was dated Aug. 2, 2016.

The appeals court only looked at the first issue and agreed with the plaintiff on the argument the lower court incorrectly determined she didn’t answer within the allotted 60 days. It stated a Texas Labor Code regulation gives a respondent 60 days after receiving the notice to answer. The appeals court pointed out there was no proof of when Martin or her lawyer actually received the notice. 

Considering this, the appeals court determined the lower court erred in deciding when Martin received the notice and implied when the notice of the lawsuit should have been submitted. It reversed and remanded the trial court’s decision.

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