law public employment | employment disputes | termination of employment | wrongful discharge | employment at
will | employment contract vested interest | demotion | disciplinary action | whistleblower suits |
Public Employment Cases from the Texas Supreme Court
City of Dallas v. Parker, No. 07-0288 (Tex. Dec. 16, 2011)(Opinion by Phil Johnson)
(public employment, immunity of governmental entities)
This appeal involves issues of governmental immunity from suit. With the exception that this matter is a class
action, which does not affect our analysis or conclusions, and one argument that we address separately, the
material facts, procedural background, issues, and arguments presented are similar to those we considered in
City of Dallas v. Albert, ___ S.W.3d ___ (Tex. 2011). Thus, our conclusions and holdings are the same as
those in Albert.
In addition to arguments made in Albert and addressed above, the Officers in this case assert that the City’s
immunity from suit is waived because the suit implicitly involves the validity of pay resolutions adopted by the
city council. See TEX. CIV. PRAC. & REM. CODE § 37.006(b) (“In any proceeding that involves the validity of a
municipal ordinance . . . the municipality must be made a party . . . .”). However, the Officers’ pleadings do not
support this contention. Their pleadings reference the ordinance as having become a term of their employment
contracts and two resolutions as possible bases for calculating their damages. They do not question the validity
of either the ordinance or a resolution.
City of Dallas v. Albert, No. 07-0284 (Tex. Aug. 26, 2011)(Opinion by Justice Phil Johnson)
Texas A&M University - Kingsville v. Yarbrough, No. 09-0999 (Tex. Aug. 26, 2011)
(Chief Justice Wallace Jefferson)(tenure dispute moot)
An associate professor contends that her application for tenure was undermined by a department chair's
summary of a performance evaluation in which the professor received an "exceptional" numerical rating.
Although she was given the opportunity to rebut the summary, the professor asserts that the university
prevented her from filing an official grievance. The professor was granted tenure before she filed the present
suit requesting a declaration that the university's action violated Government Code section 617.005. We must
decide whether her complaint about the university's grievance process survives her status as a tenured
professor. Because we conclude that this case presents no live controversy, we reverse the court of appeals'
judgment and render judgment dismissing the case.
TEXAS A&M UNIVERSITY - KINGSVILLE v. MELODY YARBROUGH; from Kleberg County; 13th district (13-07-
00744-CV, 298 SW3d 366, 09-24-09)
The Court reverses the court of appeals' judgment and renders judgment.
Chief Justice Jefferson delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Justice Medina, Justice Green, Justice
Guzman, and Justice Lehrmann joined. [pdf]
Justice Willett delivered a dissenting opinion, in which Justice Hecht, Justice Wainwright, and Justice Johnson
Link to e-briefs: TEXAS A&M UNIVERSITY - KINGSVILLE v. YARBROUGH
City of Waco v. Kelley, No. 07-0485 (Tex. Feb. 19, 2010)(Johnson)(public employment, municipal civil service
disciplinary proceeding, judicial review of hearing examiner's decision, jurisdiction issue)
CITY OF WACO, TEXAS v. LARRY KELLEY; from McLennan County;
10th district (10-03-00214-CV, 226 SW3d 672, 05-02-07)
The Court reverses the court of appeals' judgment and remands the case to the trial court
Justice Phil Johnson delivered the opinion of the Court.
City of Pasadena, TX v. Smith, No. 06-0948 (Tex. Aug. 28, 2009)(Hecht)
(disciplinary appeal, authority of hearing examiner, police officer, UDJA and jurisdictional issues)
CITY OF PASADENA, TEXAS v. RICHARD SMITH; from Harris County;
1st district (01-05-01157-CV, 263 SW3d 80, 09-14-06)
The Court reverses the court of appeals' judgment and remands the case to the trial court.
Justice Hecht delivered the opinion of the Court.
City of Desoto, Tx v. White, No. 07-1031(Tex. Jun. 19, 2009)(Green)
(public employment, police officers, disciplinary process, election of grievance remedies,
city's failure to give pre-appeal notice not jurisdictional)
CITY OF DESOTO, TEXAS v. JUSTIN WHITE; from Dallas County; 5th district
(05-06-01469-CV, 232 SW3d 379, 08-28-07)
The Court reverses the court of appeals' judgment and remands the case to the trial court.
Justice Green delivered the opinion of the Court.
City of Waco, Texas v. Lopez, No. 06-0089 (Tex. July 11, 2008)(Opinion by Justice Wainwright)
(Whistleblower Act, TCHRA, anti-discrimination statute as exclusive remedy for retaliation claim at issue,
failure to satisfy prerequisites for suit by not filing with agency first)
CITY OF WACO, TEXAS v. ROBERT LOPEZ; from Limestone County; 10th district (10-04-00085-CV, 183
SW3d 825, 12-14-05)
The Court reverses the court of appeals' judgment and dismisses the case.
Justice Wainwright delivered the opinion of the Court.
The CHRA affords public employees like Lopez a specific and tailored anti-retaliation remedy, and he was
obliged to use it. Because he failed to do so, and the pleadings and evidence establish that he can no longer
pursue a CHRA claim, the trial court should have granted the City’s plea to the jurisdiction and dismissed the
case for lack of jurisdiction.
Mission Consolidated ISD v. Garcia, No. 05-0734 (Tex. Mar. 28, 2008)(O’Neill)(public employment, wrongful
termination claim, TTCA, tort claims, TCHRA claim, immunity waiver)
MISSION CONSOLIDATED INDEPENDENT SCHOOL DISTRICT v. GLORIA GARCIA; from Hidalgo County; 13th
district (13-04-00668-CV, ___ S.W.3d ___, 06-30-05)
– consolidated with –
05-0762 MISSION CONSOLIDATED INDEPENDENT SCHOOL DISTRICT v. MELINDA SOTUYO; from Hidalgo
County; 13th district (13-05-00021-CV, ___ S.W.3d ___, 06 30 05)
– consolidated with –
05-0763 MISSION CONSOLIDATED INDEPENDENT SCHOOL DISTRICT v. DEBORAH MEDINA; from Hidalgo
County; 13th district (13-05-00060-CV, ___ S.W.3d ___, 06 30 05)
The Court affirms in part and reverses in part the court of appeals' judgment and remands the case to the trial
Justice O'Neill delivered the opinion of the Court.
O’Neil v. Ector ISD, No. 07-0084 (Tex. Mar. 28, 2008)(per curiam)
(teacher contract dispute, exhaustion of administrative remedies, limitations)
HELEN O'NEAL v. ECTOR COUNTY INDEPENDENT SCHOOL DISTRICT; from Travis County; 11th district (11-
06-00013-CV, 221 S.W.3d 286, 11-09-06)
Pursuant to Texas Rule of Appellate Procedure 59.1, after granting the petition for review and without hearing
oral argument, the Court affirms the court of appeals' judgment.
Houston Municipal Employees Pension System v. Ferrell, No. 05-0587 (Tex. Nov. 30, 2007)(Green)
(public employment, UDJA, jurisdiction, nonsuit)
Justice Brister delivered a concurring opinion, in which Justice O'Neill joined. (Justice Willett not sitting)
PETITIONS DENIED BY THE TEXAS SUPREME COURT
CONRAD G. DEOCARIZA v. CENTRAL TEXAS COLLEGE DISTRICT; from Bell County;
3rd district (03-06-00653-CV, ___ SW3d ___, 06-19-08))(public employment, termination, discrimination)
TEXAS PARKS AND WILDLIFE DEPARTMENT v. MILBURN DEARING, KENNETH HEAD, AND MIKE WARREN, INDIVIDUALLY
AND ON BEHALF OF ALL OTHERS SIMILARLY SITUATED; from Travis County; 3rd district (03-05-00499-CV, 240 SW3d 330, 08-
03-07, pet. denied June 2008) [Separate opinion in 03-05-00499-CV]
(class action, interlocutory appeal, public employment, age discrimination, reclassification of position)
This is an interlocutory appeal from the re-certification of a class action following this Court's reversal and remand of the original
certification order. See Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code Ann. § 51.014(a)(3) (West 1997 & Supp. 2006). Appellees Milburn Dearing,
Kenneth Head, and Mike Warren, individually and on behalf of others similarly situated (collectively, Dearing), sued their
employer, the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department, alleging a disparate-impact theory of age discrimination under chapter 21 of
the Texas Labor Code in regard to the Department's reclassification of their game-warden positions. See Texas Parks & Wildlife
Dep't v. Dearing, 150 S.W.3d 452, 466 (Tex. App.-- Austin 2004, pet. denied) (Dearing I), cert. denied, 544 U.S. 960 (2005); see
also Tex. Lab. Code Ann. § 21.051 (West 2006). The plaintiffs sought certification of a class of approximately 130 fellow game
wardens whom they claim were similarly situated. Eighty-eight of the putative class members have since intervened as plaintiffs.
The district court denied a plea to the jurisdiction and summary-judgment motions asserted by the Department and certified the
R. SCOTT PHELAN v. TEXAS TECH UNIVERSITY; from Travis County; 7th district
(07-07-00171-CV, ___ S.W.3d ___, 01-23-08, pet. denied)(whistleblower act, due process claims rejected)
Phelan was an at-will employee employed pursuant to annual contracts that expired by their own terms. See Turner v. Joshua
Independent School District, 583 S.W.2d 939, 942 (Tex.Civ.App.-Waco 1979, no writ). Under Texas Tech's rules, he was entitled
to a notice of non-reappointment by issuance of a terminal contract for one academic year. He received the required notice on
non-reappointment and, at his request, review by a faculty committee. Phelan claims that Texas Tech did not follow its
procedures related to his appeal of non-reappointment to the Tenure Advisory Committee. He asserts that it was improper for
members of the Committee, or for non-members of the Committee, to serve on the faculty Committee assembled to hear his
appeal of non-reappointment and for Eibeck's draft response to his grievance to be distributed at a Committee meeting. We
disagree. The Regents' Rules expressly permit members of the Tenure Advisory Committee, or their appointees, to serve on the
faculty committee. And, although Texas Tech's grievance procedure indicates that the procedure does not apply to grievances
related to non-reappointment and termination, there is no reciprocal provision regarding appeals of non-reappointment. In fact,
the Committee sets its own rules and can accept, or reject, any oral or written statements. In short, there is no prohibition, as
Phelan contends, against the Committee considering any evidence including Eibeck's draft response to Phelan's grievance. We
also note that Phelan cites to no authority, legal or otherwise, in support of his contention that he was entitled to notice of the time
and place of the meeting where the Committee considered his appeal, a transcription of the meeting, or a list of what was
considered by the Committee in reaching its decision to affirm his non-reappointment. Neither has he cited any authority
authorizing a non-reappointee to appeal the composition of the Committee appointed to consider his appeal. The Committee
considered his submission with other evidence and upheld his non-reappointment.
Phelan also contends that because Texas Tech established some procedure for review of his non-reappointment, it intended to
elevate his status to something more than an at-will employee. Simply because Texas Tech provided some procedure for faculty
that are non-reappointed does not mean that it intended to expand by implication the employment rights of a faculty member who
is non-reappointed beyond those set forth in its Regents' Rules. See Wells v. Hico Independent School District, 736 F.2d 243,
254-55 (5th Cir. 1984), cert. dism'd, 473 U.S. 901, 106 S.Ct. 11, 87 L.Ed.2d 672 (1985). These procedures relate to only non-
reappointment, not contract renewal or tenure. Id. Moreover, Texas does not recognize implied teaching contracts. See Burris v.
Willis Independent School District, Inc., 713 F.2d 1087, 1090-91 (5th Cir. 1983).
Phelan's non-reappointment was not tantamount to dismissal or discharge because his contract for the specified time of a year
automatically expired at the end of its term. See Bowen, 603 S.W.2d at 235. If Phelan had any expectation that he would be
renewed for an additional year, or years, his expectation was unilateral. See Govant, 72 S.W.3d at 76; Hix, 489 S.W.2d at 711.
Moreover, no cognizable claim exists because Texas Tech paid Phelan his full salary under his existing contract. Kinsey v.
Salado Independent School District, 950 F.2d 988, 997 (5th Cir. 1992), cert. dism'd, 504 U.S. 941, 112 S.Ct. 2275, 119 L.Ed.2d
201 (1992). Thus, Phelan's due process claims fail as a matter of law and his third point of error is overruled.
CARLOS GUERRA v. SANTA ROSA INDEPENDENT SCHOOL DISTRICT; from Cameron County; 13th district (13-06-00681‑CV,
241 SW3d 594, 08-28-07, pet. denied) as redrafted (public employment, schools, declaratory judgment, DJA)
This appeal is taken from a final summary judgment rendered in favor of the Santa Rosa Independent School District ('SRISD")
and against Carlos Guerra. On appeal, Guerra contends that the trial court lacked jurisdiction and erred in granting summary
judgment in favor of SRISD. We hold that SRISD established its entitlement to judgment as a matter of law on its claim for
declaratory relief. Accordingly, we affirm the judgment of the trial court. ... Guerra was employed as the Superintendent of SRISD
beginning June 28, 2004. On February 6, 2006, SRISD's Board of Trustees voted to request Guerra's resignation pursuant to
paragraph 1.2 of his employment contract which states:
08-0039 CYNTHIA M. SCOTT v. HOUSTON COMMUNITY COLLEGE SYSTEM, BRUCE LESLIE, DIANA CASTILLO, AND
REYNALDO GARAY; from Harris County; 14th district (14-07-00040-CV, ___ SW3d ___, 11-29-07, pet. denied April 2008) (public
employment disputes, breach of employment contract, IIED, WBA)
Appellants, Stan H. Looper and Cynthia M. Scott, appeal the trial court's grant of summary judgment on claims of breach of
contract, defamation, intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligent hiring, and violations of the Texas Whistleblower Act in
favor of appellees, Houston Community College System ("HCCS"), Bruce Leslie, Diana Castillo, and Reynaldo Garay. We affirm.
07-1022 JOSEPHINE S. ALOBAIDI v. THE UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS HEALTH SCIENCE CENTER AT HOUSTON; from Harris
County; 14th district (14-06-00303-CV, ___SW3d ___, 10-30-07, pet. denied March 2008)(public employment, retaliatory
discharge, suits against universities)
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