Court affirms judgment in National Oilwell Varco's favor in discrimination case

By Gabriel Neves | Dec 31, 2018

HOUSTON – A Harris County man who worked for a manufacturer of equipment used in oil and gas production and was terminated from his employment after 23 years has suffered a loss in court.

Justice Martha Jamison, on the bench of the 14th Court of Appeals, issued a 32-page ruling on Dec. 11, affirming the Harris County 152nd District Court decision in the lawsuit filed by Dale Johnson against National Oilwell Varco LP (NOV). 

In her ruling, Jamison affirmed the ruling in favor of NOV and denied a motion for a new trial. She also sustained that the lower court did not err in the decision.

A jury at the lower court decided in favor of NOV, denying all of Johnson's claims.

Johnson sued NOV alleging that he was terminated based on his African-American race after working for 23 years as a machinist, whereas the company alleged he was terminated due to not following an important safety procedure, called "lock-out, tag-out."

As stated in the ruling, on June 6, 2013, "Johnson was working at his machine, a vertical turning center or VTC, when a maintenance employee, Henry Sierra, placed a red tag on the control panel of the machine. The tag stated 'Caution Maintenance in Progress,' and according to NOV, such tags were used to indicate that a machine should not be operated until the tag was removed or the operator was told to run the machine by a maintenance employee or supervisor."

After another employee placed a tag on the machine, Johnson, per the ruling, "who was purportedly working on a rush job, closed the door of his machine and prepared it to begin operating," in a violation of the "lock-out, tag-out" procedures.

Johnson was terminated on June 13, 2013, after an investigation was conducted and video footage analyzed.

He later filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), claiming that race was a factor in the termination, since the other employees, one Hispanic, one Asian, and one Caucasian, treated him and another African-American differently.

Texas 14th Court of Appeals case number 14-16-00440-CV

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