BEAUMONT -- A lower court did not err when it granted the Office of the Attorney General a plea to the jurisdiction in a human rights claim against it, the Court of Appeals Ninth District of Texas determined Aug. 8 as it affirmed the ruling.
Justice Leanne Johnson ruled on the case while Chief Justice Steve McKeithen and Justice Hollis Horton concurred.
La Juana Williams sued the office in Jefferson County District Court, alleging the OAG violated the Texas Commission on Human Rights when it fired her because she’s an African-American woman.
The OAG filed the plea for jurisdiction and argued Williams failed to prove she was fired as an act of retaliation, after she reported her boss for alleged discrimination. The OAG detailed reasons why Williams was fired, including not reporting child abuse to Child Protective Services. The appeals court determined Williams failed to prove the only reason she was fired was because of her complaint.
The appeals court added, “There is no evidence in the record that the OAG treated Williams differently than any similarly situated employees, and there is no evidence in the record that each of the alleged reasons for her termination was false.” Although Williams denied the accusations against her, the appeals court said simply denying it is not enough to prove causation.
Williams worked in the child support division when she alleged her boss, Winton “Jay” Webster, racially discriminated against her in 2008. She said Webster treated her Caucasian colleagues more favorably and often yelled at her. Williams said when she asked him if he made hiring decisions because she is African-American, he never confirmed or denied it. Williams ultimately reported Webster to the regional administrator Charles “Chip” Arnold in November 2011.
After being assigned to a different position, Williams was fired in August 2012. She sued, stating she was a victim of racial and gender discrimination. OAG later filed a plea to the jurisdiction and a traditional motion for summary judgment, alleging that it did not discriminate against Williams but fired her because she did not properly report child abuse incidents to Child Protective Services and “instruct[ed] a parent to return his child to a potentially dangerous situation,” and “scheduled an in-person, in-the-office conference on a child support case that had been flagged for family violence,” according to the lawsuit.
The lower court granted the plea to the jurisdiction and ruled Williams did not prove there was a connection between her reporting the alleged discrimination to Arnold, and her being fired. She appealed and the appeals court affirmed.