HOUSTON – A state appeals court has reversed a ruling in a former Goodwill Industries employee's claim that she was wrongfully fired by the company.
On Oct. 18, the 14th District Court of Appeals reversed the decision of the Harris County Civil Court at Law and dismissed the matter against Goodwill Industries of Houston Inc. and its district manager, appellee Robin Davis. The court ruled in part that "the county court lacked subject-matter jurisdiction over Allen’s claims."
Justice Marc W. Brown wrote the opinion.
Goodwill filed a motion for no-evidence summary judgment arguing that former employee Ashley Allen's claim showed "no prima facie evidence of discrimination; Goodwill 'conclusively established' a legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason for terminating Allen; Allen could not proffer any evidence to disprove that Goodwill’s basis for terminating her was really a pretext to discriminate; and Goodwill 'conclusively negated' pretext," the ruling states. The Harris County court granted this motion.
According to the ruling, Allen had worked for the company since October 2015 and was promoted to store assistant manager in February 2016. She was fired in April 2016 after, the ruling states, she "improperly discounted (underpriced) a desk and chair that had only been on sale for one week from $199.99 to $149.99 and sold it to a friend or relative.”
Goodwill contends the act violated the company's anti-theft policy.
Allen filed a small claims petition alleging discrimination based on race and gender and citing the Civil Rights Act of 1964 in justice court. The matter, however, was dismissed in February 2017 by that court. An appeal filed in the county court was also dismissed in May 2017.
Allen later filed an amended complaint to include an allegation of retaliation. There, the ruling states, she sought wage, compensatory and punitive damages.
"Allen sought recovery of 'the monetary amount' of $92,160 on her claims against Goodwill and Davis" in the amended complaint, the ruling states.
Goodwill and Davis argued that based on their calculations, Allen would only be due $20,160 in salary.
"We therefore conclude that Allen 'pleaded herself out of court' when she amended her claims to demand relief clearly in excess of the jurisdictional limits of the justice court," the ruling states.