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Woman sues Texas school district for on-the-job discrimination

After causing a fire by using a washer and dryer to clean mop heads (which caused the mop heads to catch fire in the dryer), a female school custodian was terminated. She filed suit against the Texas school district claiming she was the victim of on-the-job discrimination. Her claim was based on her termination allegedly being the result of both her natural origin and her gender.

The main issue of the case is why the woman was fired. Was it because she caused a fire -- an incident which could have been prevented if she were trained properly and made aware of the need for dirty mop heads to be sent to another location for safe cleaning -- or was the termination the result of her being a Mexican immigrant and a woman? The plaintiff alleged that her termination was based on the latter and not the former cause.

If the woman's claim is proven to be true, the school board is in violation of the Texas Commission on Human Rights Act which prohibits actions being taken against an employee on the basis of sex or natural origin. The trial court denied the school district's motion for summary judgment and the district appealed. The appeals court agreed with the trial court's refusal to grant summary judgment regarding the issue of the termination being based on natural origin by finding a 'genuine issue of material fact' relating to whether the terminated employee was replaced by an individual not of her protected class. The appellate court saw the gender issue differently, however, and noted that the fired woman's on-the-job replacement was another woman and not a male.

The appeals court therefore affirmed the lower court's decision regarding the national origin discrimination claim, but reversed the court's decision regarding the employee's sex as a factor in the termination. Suits involving actions allegedly taken against an employee based on gender or national origin can become complex issues and wronged Texas employees would do well to seek assistance from those who are both knowledgeable and experienced in the intricacies of labor law before proceeding. Although the law generally favors reinstatement of the unlawfully terminated employee, that remedy is not often used because of the bad blood that has developed between the parties involved -- monetary awards are typically awarded instead.

Source: hr.blr.com, "Texas employee sues after termination for causing fire," July 22, 2013

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