01/17/2016 // Dallas, Texas, United States // Attorney Keith Clouse // Keith Clouse // (press release)
The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals recently affirmed in part and vacated in part a discrimination and retaliation case. Wheat v. Fl. Parish Juv. Justice Comm’n, No. 14-30788 (5th Cir. Jan. 5, 2016), available at http://www.ca5.uscourts.gov/opinions/pub/14/14-30788-CV0.pdf.
The plaintiff worked in a juvenile detention center. After taking Family and Medical Leave Act leave, her employment was terminated, but she was later reinstated. Upon her return, she was discharged after she was involved in an altercation with a juvenile. She alleged that she was discharged in retaliation for asserting her rights under the FMLA and under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act for having complained about a juvenile’s sexual advances.
The Court first examined three pre-termination actions (assignment of janitorial duties, denial of a 4% raise, and the denial of the plaintiff’s request to be transferred away from a difficult inmate). The Court concluded that the plaintiff did not meet her burden to establish retaliation on those claims.
In regard to her termination, however, the plaintiff put forth evidence that the employer discharged some employees—but not all—who used excessive force with juveniles. This created a fact issue as to whether the plaintiff’s discharge would have occurred “but for” her exercising her rights. The Court remanded the case for further consideration.
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