The Texas Supreme Court recently addressed whether a plaintiff may recover negligence damages for harassment covered by the Texas antidiscrimination statute. Waffle House, Inc. v. Williams, No. 07-0205 (Tex. June 11, 2010), available at http://www.supreme.courts.state.tx.us/historical/2010/jun/070205.htm.
The plaintiff waited tables at a Waffle House restaurant. A co-worker made offensive sexual comments to her and touched her in an inappropriate manner, and Waffle House did not remedy the situation. Williams then sued Waffle House under the Texas antidiscrimination law (the Texas Commission on Human Rights Act) for sexual harassment and under the common law for negligent supervision and retention. After a favorable jury verdict, she elected to recover under her common law claim. The appellate court affirmed the judgment on her common law claim.
The Texas Supreme Court reversed. The Court concluded that the plaintiff’s exclusive claim was the statutory harassment claim. After reviewing the differences in the two claims, the Court ruled that allowing a plaintiff’s common law claim to coexist with a statutory claim would enable a plaintiff to circumvent the special rules applicable to statutory discrimination and harassment claims; where the gravamen of a plaintiff’s case is harassment covered by the Texas antidiscrimination statute, the statute precludes pursuit of any common law theories predicated on the same underlying facts.
To speak with a Dallas employment law attorney regarding workplace discrimination or harassment, contact the employment law attorneys at Clouse Dunn Khoshbin LLP at [email protected].
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