Feng v. Sabic America, Inc. NO. 14-07-00699-CV (Tex.App.- Houston [14th Dist.] Mar. 17, 2009, pet.
denied) (employment retaliation claim fails)
YIQING FENG v. SABIC AMERICAS, INC.; from Harris County; 14th district (14-07-00699-CV, ___ SW3d ___,
03-17-09, pet denied Jun 2009) as redrafted
Affirmed and Memorandum Opinion filed March 17, 2009.
Fourteenth Court of Appeals
YIQING FENG, Appellant
SABIC AMERICAS, INC., Appellee
On Appeal from the 61st District Court
Harris County, Texas
Trial Court Cause No. 2006-38653
M E M O R A N D U M O P I N I O N
In this case, a discharged employee appeals the trial court's summary judgment in favor of his former
employer as to his claim for retaliation under section 21.055 of the Texas Labor Code. The summary-
judgment evidence does not raise a fact issue as to whether the employer's proffered reason for termination
is a pretext or whether engaging in the protected activity was the but-for cause of the employee's termination
or any other adverse employment action. Therefore, we affirm the trial court's judgment.
I. Factual and Procedural Background
In May 2001, appellant Yiqing Feng started working as a research associate at the analytical lab of appellee
Sabic Americas, Inc. (hereinafter “Sabic") in Sugarland, Texas. On December 9, 2005, Sabic terminated
Feng's employment. Feng filed suit against Sabic alleging that Sabic unlawfully discriminated against him
because he is a Christian, of the Asian race, from China, and suffered from a disability based on an eye
condition. Feng also asserted a claim for intentional infliction of emotional distress and for retaliation under
section 21.055 of the Texas Labor Code. Sabic filed a motion for summary judgment attacking all of Feng's
claims; however, in his response and on appeal Feng has argued only that summary judgment is
inappropriate as to his retaliation claim. Therefore, the other, unchallenged claims are not at issue in this
As to the retaliation claim, Sabic moved for summary judgment on the following stated grounds:
(1) There is no evidence of a causal connection between Feng's alleged protected activity and the adverse
(2) Sabic terminated Feng for legitimate, non-discriminatory reasons - insubordination and failure to
complete work assignments.
(3) There is no evidence that Sabic's proffered reasons were a pretext for unlawful discrimination.
The trial court granted summary judgment without specifying the grounds.
II. Standards of Review
In a traditional motion for summary judgment, if the movant's motion and summary-judgment evidence facially
establish its right to judgment as a matter of law, the burden shifts to the nonmovant to raise a genuine,
material fact issue sufficient to defeat summary judgment. M.D. Anderson Hosp. & Tumor Inst. v. Willrich, 28
S.W.3d 22, 23 (Tex. 2000) (per curiam). In our de novo review of a trial court's summary judgment, we
consider all the evidence in the light most favorable to the nonmovant, crediting evidence favorable to the
nonmovant if reasonable jurors could, and disregarding contrary evidence unless reasonable jurors could
not. Mack Trucks, Inc. v. Tamez, 206 S.W.3d 572, 582 (Tex. 2006). The evidence raises a genuine issue of
fact if reasonable and fair-minded jurors could differ in their conclusions in light of all of the summary-
judgment evidence. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. v. Mayes, 236 S.W.3d 754, 755 (Tex. 2007) (per curiam).
In reviewing a no-evidence summary judgment, we ascertain whether the nonmovant pointed out summary-
judgment evidence of probative force to raise a genuine issue of fact as to the essential elements attacked in
the no-evidence motion. Johnson v. Brewer & Pritchard, P.C., 73 S.W.3d 193, 206B08 (Tex. 2002). A no-
evidence summary judgment must be granted if the party opposing the motion does not respond with
summary-judgment evidence that raises a genuine issue of material fact. See Arguelles v. Kellogg Brown &
Root, Inc., 222 S.W.3d 714, 723 (Tex. App.- Houston [14th Dist.] 2007, no pet.). In our de novo review of a
trial court's summary judgment, we consider all the evidence in the light most favorable to the nonmovant,
crediting evidence favorable to the nonmovant if reasonable jurors could and disregarding contrary evidence
unless reasonable jurors could not. Mack Trucks, Inc., 206 S.W.3d at 582. The evidence raises a genuine
issue of fact if reasonable and fair-minded jurors could differ in their conclusions in light of all of the summary-
judgment evidence. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., 236 S.W.3d at 755B56. When, as in this case, the trial
court does not specify in the order granting summary judgment the grounds upon which the trial court relied,
we must affirm summary judgment if any one of the independent summary-judgment grounds is meritorious.
See Ramco Oil & Gas Ltd. v. Anglo-Dutch (Tenge) L.L.C., 207 S.W.3d 801, 826 (Tex. App.- Houston [14th
Dist.] 2006, pet. denied).
III. Issue and Analysis
On appeal, Feng asserts in one issue that the trial court erred in granting summary judgment as to his
retaliation claim because genuine issues of material fact preclude summary judgment. Under section 21.055
of the Texas Labor Code:
An employer . . . commits an unlawful employment practice if the employer . . . retaliates or discriminates
against a person who, under this chapter:
(1) opposes a discriminatory practice;
(2) makes or files a charge;
(3) files a complaint; or
(4) testifies, assists, or participates in any manner in an investigation, proceeding, or hearing.
Tex. Lab. Code Ann. § 21.055 (Vernon 2006). The purpose of the Texas Commission on Human Rights Act is
to provide for the execution of the policies of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. See Tex. Lab. Code §
21.001(1) (Vernon 1996); Quantum Chem. Corp. v. Toennies, 47 S.W.3d 473, 476 (Tex. 2001). Thus,
Aanalogous federal statutes and the cases interpreting them guide" the reading of the statute. Quantum, 47
S.W.3d at 476.
To establish a prima facie case of retaliation, a claimant must show that (1) he engaged in a protected
activity, (2) an adverse employment action occurred, and (3) there was a causal connection between
participation in the protected activity and the adverse employment decision. See Thomas v. Clayton Williams
Energy, Inc., 2 S.W.3d 734, 739 (Tex. App.- Houston [14th Dist. 1999, no pet.). The burden then shifts to the
employer to rebut this presumption by articulating a legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason for the adverse
employment action. See id. Upon the employer's articulation of a legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason, the
presumption raised by the prima facie case is rebutted. See id. At this point the claimant carries the burden
of proving that the employer's proffered reason is a pretext and that engaging in the protected activity was the
but-for cause of the adverse employment action. See Pineda v. United Parcel Serv., 360 F.3d 483, 485 (5th
Cir. 2004); Chaney v. New Orleans Pub. Facility Mgm't, 179 F.3d 164, 167 (5th Cir. 1999); Quantum, 47 S.W.
3d at 479.
Feng alleges that he was terminated in retaliation for opposing a discriminatory practice through numerous
complaints Feng made between August 24, 2005, and December 2, 2005, including the filing of a charge with
the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (hereinafter AEEOC") on October 22, 2005. In its motion,
Sabic presumed for the sake of argument that Feng was engaging in a protected activity. On appeal, we
make the same presumption. It is undisputed that Sabic terminated Feng on December 9, 2005, which is an
adverse employment action. For the purposes of our analysis, we also presume that the evidence raises a
fact issue as to whether there was a causal connection between participation in the alleged protected activity
and the adverse employment decision. Therefore, based on these presumptions, Feng established a prima
facie case of retaliation, and we must determine whether Sabic articulated a legitimate, nondiscriminatory
reason for terminating Feng's employment.
Sabic did articulate a legitimate, nondiscriminatory reason for terminating Feng's employment, namely, his
insubordinate behavior. See Aldrup v. Caldera, 274 F.3d 282, 286 (5th Cir. 2001); Chaney, 179 F.3d at
167B68. Therefore, we examine the evidence to see if there is a fact issue as to whether Sabic's proffered
reason was a pretext or whether Feng's engaging in the protected activity was the but-for cause of adverse
employment action. See Pineda, 360 F.3d at 485; Chaney, 179 F.3d at 167; Quantum, 47 S.W.3d at 479.
In his affidavit, Paul Ellis of Sabic testified as follows:
* During the time period relevant to Feng's claims, Ellis was the Manager of Research at Sabic, and he
was responsible for the execution of project plans and responsible for the people working on all projects.
* Sabic hired Feng, who is Chinese-American, as a research associate in May 2001. Research
associates work in the Sabic Technology Center, a research facility in Sugarland, Texas, and they are
responsible for assisting scientists in the discovery and analysis of new chemical technology. Feng's
immediate supervisor was Dr. Xiankuan Zhang, a Chinese-American. Zhang reported to Ellis and Syed
Bughdadi, the former Center Director.
* The other associate in the analytical laboratory was Qui Nguyen, who has been employed by Sabic
since July 1998. Over time, Feng and Qui developed interpersonal problems. These employees worked in
close proximity in the analytical laboratory. In 2005, after several quarrels and mutual bickering between
them, Bughdadi and Ellis placed these two employees into separate offices. However, Feng and Qui
continued to share the laboratory space which contained their respective analytical instruments.
* Beginning in 2003, Feng was directed to cross-train on Qui's equipment and to train Qui on Feng's
equipment. The cross-training was implemented to insure that each of their respective instruments could be
operated by the other in the event of a need arising while one of them was absent from work. This direction
continued to be reiterated into 2005. Feng never completed this task.
* In August 2005, a meeting was held with Zhang, Qui, Feng, and Ellis. The purpose of this meeting was
to direct Qui and Feng to cease and desist their continuous bickering, to treat each other professionally, to
complete the requested cross-training, and to create drafts outlining the steps needed for calibration of their
instruments as they had been directed to do, in March 2005. During this meeting Feng became disruptive
and accused Qui of harassing him. Feng then made a formal written complaint which was submitted to Russ
Pemberton, the Manager of Human Resources, who promptly investigated the complaint.
* Pemberton met with the involved employees and their supervisors, Zhang, Ellis, and Bughdadi. He also
reviewed various emails. Ultimately, Pemberton concluded that no unlawful harassment was occurring, and
he so informed Feng.
* Upon the conclusion of this investigation, Pemberton directed Feng and Qui to behave professionally.
This request was not honored. The very next day Feng sent an email to his supervisors and co-workers
accusing Qui of improper research techniques. In response, on October 6, 2005, Zhang sent Feng a letter
urging him to focus on his own responsibilities, complete his job duties, and eliminate negative feelings
towards co-workers. In response to this letter, Feng sent an email stating that he could not complete his
drafting assignment because of an eye condition. Throughout October and November 2005, Sabic requested
that Feng provide information from his doctor about this condition. Sabic requested this information to learn
the nature of the condition so that an appropriate accommodation could be made. Feng never provided this
information; rather, he insubordinately challenged his supervisor's authority to make such a request. On
October 27, 2005, Ellis sent a written warning to Feng urging him to stop his insubordinate behavior. Emails
from Feng to his supervisor continued to be disrespectful, and Feng was counseled accordingly.
* On November 18, 2005, Ellis placed Feng on probation for: (1) his failure to substantiate his claim that a
medical condition precluded him from completing his assignments and (2) his refusal to comply with his
manager's direct order to cross train. In the letter placing him on probation, Sabic explained that if Feng
continued to not comply with Sabic's employment standards, his employment would be terminated.
* In early December 2005, another meeting to address cross-training requirements was held with Zhang,
Qui, Feng, and Ellis. During this meeting Feng was disruptive, disrespectful, and insubordinate. Based on
Feng's insubordinate refusal to complete his drafting assignments and cross-training duties and based upon
his insubordinate refusal to substantiate his medical condition, Pemberton and Ellis terminated Feng's
employment on December 9, 2005, after reviewing the matter with Bughdadi and Sabic's General Manager
and securing their concurrence.
Feng did not submit a summary-judgment affidavit, but the facts set forth below are established by Feng's
deposition testimony and the exhibits thereto, which are part of the summary-judgment evidence.
Feng started having problems with Qui after November 2001, when Feng started to Afeel very strange"
because Qui did not say anything to Feng, making Feng believe Qui was Amad with [Feng]." In addition, Qui
put up a picture of his spiritual leader, whom Qui said Ahas great power," Acan treat a disease with medicine
easily," and Acan cause wind." Feng complained to Zhang about this, but Zhang got mad and told Feng that
Qui could put a picture of his religious leader on Qui's desk.
In the workplace, Feng had a bad relationship with Qui. On September 12, 2003, Feng emailed Zhang asking
him to tell Andy Nuyen, a Vietnamese-American employee of Sabic, not to stand near Feng's desk and talk
with Qui because Feng did not Alike it." Feng sent another email the same day saying that he did not mind if
anyone else other than Andy came near his desk to talk. At his deposition, Feng said he did not like Andy
and Qui talking in the lab because, when they talked, they watched Feng, and they had angry looks on their
faces. Feng does not know what they were saying because they spoke in Vietnamese, and Feng does not
understand Vietnamese. According to Feng, the hostility on their faces made him depressed, and he did not
know how to handle the situation. Feng does not remember what Zhang did in response to his complaints in
2003 regarding Andy and Qui.
Feng remembers a meeting he had with Qui, Zhang, and Ellis. Ellis asked questions about his relationship
with Qui. Ellis talked about one of them leaving the lab and going to another team. Feng told Ellis that he
needed a peaceful work environment but that Andy was saying many bad things about Feng to others and
that this is harassment that Ellis should stop. Ellis told Feng and Qui that they needed to act professionally
and get along and stop all this bickering between them. Feng told Ellis that he did nothing wrong and that he
is very professional. Feng does not remember what Qui said at this meeting.
Andy did not work in the lab. The only times Feng would see Andy was in the lunch room, while passing him
in the hallway, or when Andy came to visit Qui. Feng first mentioned harassment to Ellis early in 2005, and
Ellis said he would make Andy stop his harassment. According to Feng, Sabic did not care about this
problem, and Sabic treated Feng badly because he is Chinese.
In March 2005, Feng had a meeting with Zhang and Qui. Zhang told Feng and Qui that, because of an audit
by Sabic's parent company they had to write operating procedures for all of their equipment. Feng never did
what Zhang instructed him to do. Feng did not have the time. He could not write the procedures without
working overtime. Accordingly to Feng, Qui did not write the procedures for his equipment either.
On May 3, 2005, Zhang sent an email to Qui and Feng telling them that, as discussed in their March meeting,
they needed to write procedures for each analytical instrument that they use. Zhang stated that he expected
to receive a draft of procedures for one instrument from Feng and Qui soon and that their target was to
complete procedures for two instruments each by the end of the second quarter. Feng did not write
procedures for any instruments by the end of the second quarter because he did not have time, and he
communicated this to Zhang.
On July 15, 2005, Zhang sent Feng an email stating that Feng was required to give Zhang a draft of
procedures for one instrument by July 19, and that Zhang could not delay the matter any further. Feng
responded by saying he would try to write one if he had time the next week but that if he did not see Qui's
draft, he would not believe it reasonable to give Zhang any drafts of procedures. Zhang responded that he
was not negotiating with Feng and that this task is Aa must"and should be Feng's Ahighest priority till [sic]
next Tuesday [July 19]."
In July 2005, Sabic also moved the offices of Qui and Feng out of the lab so that their respective offices were
separated. Feng stated he never did anything to Qui, but Qui was always hostile to him, so Feng was happy
when their offices were separated. After the office move, in August 2005, Qui no longer had the picture of his
spiritual leader at Qui's desk.
Feng started a draft of the procedures but he never finished it. On July 25, 2005, Zhang sent Feng and Qui a
format for them to use in drafting the procedures for their instruments and asked them for any suggestions or
comments that they might have. On August 1, 2005, Zhang emailed Feng and Qui that he expected to
receive a completed document containing the procedures for one instrument from each of them by the end of
the third quarter. On August 10, 2005, having not heard back from Feng or Qui, Zhang sent an email to them
stating that the format that Zhang had provided should be considered the final format for use in creating the
document containing the procedures.
On the morning of August 24, 2005, Ellis met with Qui, Feng, and Zhang. During this meeting, Ellis asked why
Zhang was doing a safety inspection job that had been assigned to Feng. In response, Feng asked Ellis why
he did not answer any questions. Ellis warned Feng by mentioning Paul Mark, a Sabic employee who had
been fired. Feng felt that he was eventually going to be fired based on discrimination against Chinese
After the meeting, Feng emailed Ellis's superior, Syed Bughdadi, saying he was confused by Ellis's statement
that he was supposed to handle the safety inspection job. Feng asked Bughdadi if Feng had done anything
wrong and asked whether he would be Athe next Mark," referring to the Sabic employee who had been fired.
Bughdadi responded by asking what Feng was talking about and whether he was taking Ellis's words out of
context. Bughdadi said that Feng and Qui were constantly involved in petty quarrels, and therefore, Feng's
office had been moved out of the lab. Bughdadi stated that Feng should not get Bughdadi involved unless
Feng had a serious complaint because if Feng got Bughdadi involved then Bughdadi would have the Human
Resources Department get involved in the matter. Feng responded by saying that he was not involved in
petty quarrels with Qui. Feng stated that he had not emailed Bughdadi before regarding this issue and that it
was not necessary to involve Bughdadi at that time, although Feng would contact Bughdadi if Feng felt that
he was not being treated appropriately by Zhang or Ellis.
During the August 24, 2005, meeting, Ellis warned Feng and Qui that their Apoor behavior directed at each
other must stop immediately." Later that day, Ellis followed this oral admonition with a written warning to the
same effect. In the written warning, Ellis stated that Feng brought up the issue of harassment at the meeting
and that if Feng or any other employee felt they are being harassed they should bring this issue up with
management in an official way. Management would then investigate to see if harassment had occurred and to
take steps to deal with it. Ellis stated that harassment and the charge of harassment are serious matters that
will not be ignored.
After the August 24 meeting, Feng sent Ellis an email stating that Andy had Atalked bad" about Feng in front
of many people for a long time. However, Feng stated that he would not present evidence to Ellis at that time
and that Feng thought that the company had the responsibility to investigate the matter. Feng said that, even
though Ellis had said at the meeting that Ellis had never heard Andy speak badly about Feng, this does not
mean that Andy had not done so with other people. At his deposition, Feng stated that Andy Atalked bad"
about him to almost everybody at Sabic.
On August 27, 2005, in response to Sabic's request, Feng submitted an official letter complaining about
alleged workplace harassment by Qui and Andy. In this letter, Feng said that Qui had engaged in religious
harassment because, for three and a half years, he had displayed a picture of his religious leader on his desk
and Feng could see the picture everyday when he was in the lab. At his deposition, Feng admitted that Qui
had removed the picture from his desk before August 27, 2005, but he said that hostility still existed. Feng
also stated that for three and a half years, while Feng had no personal or professional relationship with Andy,
Andy had said bad things about Feng to many people at Sabic. As a result, some employees did not like to
talk to Feng even though he tried to Asay hello" to them. Feng stated that as a result of these problems, he
has been seriously hurt psychologically, and he has panic disorder, depression, and insomnia. He said that
he was going to the bathroom at work frequently because of panic and stress, and he had the idea that some
day he would be fired.
Feng spoke with Sabic's Human Resource Manager, Pemberton, on August 26. Pemberton asked Feng for a
list of people who had witnessed the alleged harassment. Feng refused to give him any names, saying he
should first ask Zhang and Ellis for names.
On August 31, 2005, Pemberton issued a confidential memorandum describing his investigation and
concluding that no unlawful harassment had occurred. Pemberton stated that he had urged Andy and Qui to
be sensitive to Feng's perceptions and feelings and that he asked Feng to be sensitive that other people are
not harassing him if they criticize his work or fail to speak to him on a particular occasion. Pemberton asked
Feng to inform the Human Resources Department or his supervisor immediately if Feng had any further
problems or complaints. Feng refused to sign the memorandum, but he received a copy of the memorandum
on September 1, 2005. That same day, Feng sent an email to Pemberton stating that Pemberton should
have talked to all the employees at Sabic and that Pemberton was taking Andy's and Qui's side. Feng said
that he had Ato move on" and that he would be consulting with attorneys in the future to seek justice in the
On September 2, 2005, Feng sent an email to various employees and supervisors, including Qui, Ellis and
Zhang. In the email, Feng criticized as wrong a testing method used by Qui's team. After Zhang responded,
Feng sent another email challenging the quality of Qui's work. Zhang responded by telling Feng to focus on
his own work, that Zhang was Qui's supervisor, that he was satisfied with the procedure in question, and the
Feng should not spend any more time on it.
On September 8, 2005. Zhang emailed Feng and Qui a reminder that Zhang expected to receive a completed
document containing the procedures for one instrument from each of them by the end of the third quarter.
The next day, Feng responded by email that he probably could not complete the document on time because
(1) he felt depressed regarding Qui and Andy's harassment and therefore could not focus on the document,
(2) he felt pressed to write the document when he had a lot of lab work, and (3) he had a Acomputer related
illness" and Acan not stay longer [sic] in front of a computer monitor." Feng stated that he would continue to
work hard and expected that he would not be treated harshly while seeking justice against the harassment by
Qui and Andy and other issues.
According to Feng, his computer-related eye problem is that, when he is in front of a computer monitor, he
feels Adry. . . [n]ot comfortable . . . [h]eadache and frantic." Feng claims that this problem started in July
2005. Feng stated that he saw a medical doctor about his problem in November 2005, though the summary-
judgment evidence contains no documents relating to this visit or any evidence that Feng gave Sabic any
such documents before his employment was terminated. Sabic instructed Feng to see an eye doctor after
Feng said he could not do his job because of his eye problem. After Sabic told him this, Feng felt nervous.
He felt he was not being treated appropriately because he was engaging in protected activity.
In cross-training, Qui would train Feng how to use Qui's instruments and Feng would train Qui how to use
Feng's instruments. Zhang had been telling Feng to cross-train with Qui since around 2002. Cross-training
was a job requirement. Feng stated that he never refused to cross-train and that he performed Aexcellent
cross-training" with Qui.
On October 6, 2005, Feng had a conference with Zhang, who gave Feng a letter stating that Feng needed to
become better focused on his responsibilities and to eliminate his negative feelings towards his colleagues.
The letter outlined Feng's job duties and stated that Zhang expected Feng to treat his colleagues with the
same respect that he desires. Zhang said that he wanted Feng to become more cooperative and work toward
resolving his feelings in a more positive manner. Zhang also cautioned Feng against making allegations
against colleagues that are unsubstantiated or without merit. Zhang stated that if Feng had a concern or
complaint in the future, he should raise it first with Zhang, and if Zhang did not resolve it, then Feng could
pursue the issue with the next level of management. Zhang stated that he would closely track Feng's
performance and that it was up to Feng to bring his performance up to an acceptable level. Feng stated that
the October 6, 2005 warning letter made him panic and was Arace retaliation" and Arace discrimination."
On the same day, Feng received the warning letter, he violated one of its provisions by raising a concern in
an email sent to higher levels of management as well as Zhang. In his email, Feng stated that he would work
hard but that, regarding the requirement that he write procedures for the instruments, he could not work on
that task until his medical condition with his eye allowed him to work. Feng stated that he received the letter
during Athe period of my seeking justice on [Qui] and [Andy]'s working [sic] place harassment as well as
salary discrimination issue on me."
On October 20, 2005, Zhang sent Feng an email stating that he needed to provide evidence from his doctor
concerning his eye problem and alleged inability to spend time in front of a computer monitor. Zhang said
that the human resources department needed the doctor to tell them what medical condition Feng had and
the maximum number of hours he could work on a computer each day.
Feng responded the same day saying that he had not seen a doctor about his eye condition, so he could not
provide a doctor's letter, and he had no medical records to provide. Feng stated that for about six months,
his eye had not felt comfortable and he had headaches Aif [he] stay[s] longer in front of a computer screen."
Feng stated that he did not know the maximum hours he could work in front of a computer monitor. Feng said
that he could work a lot in front of a monitor but that if the company insisted on this work, then it would be
responsible for any damage to his eye. Feng stated that during working hours he knows how to handle his
time in front of the computer monitor.
On October 27, 2005, Feng received a written warning letter from Ellis in which Ellis stated that Feng needed
to have a doctor provide written confirmation of Feng's eye condition. Ellis noted that Feng had been asked
to provide this information but had not done so. Ellis defined insubordination and noted that, in his October
20, 2005 email, Feng had once again demonstrated an insubordinate attitude and attempted to tell Zhang
how to manage his work group. Ellis warned Feng that if he continued to violate the conditions of his
employment he would be subject to further discipline, including termination of employment.
Feng responded with an email on October 28, 2005, in which Feng stated (1) he did not tell Zhang how to
manage his work group; (2) he did suggest to Zhang that Zhang schedule a team meeting to have better work
done; (3) Feng feels he has a right Ato report my peer's fault completely for the benefit of Sabic"; (4) by his
own definition, Feng has Acomputer-related illness"; (5) Feng's wife, who is an intern medical doctor, advised
Feng to spend less time in front of the computer screen and she also gave him a medicine from China; (6)
after taking the Chinese medicine Feng Areally feel [his] eye relaxed"; (7) if Sabic still insists on having a
medical doctor confirm his illness, then Sabic and the doctor will be responsible if Feng's eye is injured in the
future due to working hard in front of the computer monitor; (8) Feng expects Sabic to stop the racial and
religious discrimination that he charged and stop the long term harassment by Andy and Qui; and (9) Sabic
would be receiving a letter soon from the EEOC.
On November 9, 2005, Ellis emailed Feng asking if he had made an appointment with an eye doctor yet. Ellis
stated that he wanted Feng to provide documentation from an eye doctor by November 17, 2005. Feng
responded the same day saying that (1) he had not yet made an appointment with an eye doctor; (2) after
using Chinese medicine, his eye condition was better than before; (3) he would make an appointment for his
own health purposes; (4) when he could present a document from the doctor would depend on the doctor's
schedule; and (5) he still was unsure whether Sabic could require him to present a document from an eye
On November 14, 2005, Zhang emailed Qui and Feng saying he wanted to have a meeting about cross-
training. Feng responded that, based on his past four years of interaction with Qui, Feng felt Ascared to have
a cross training with [Qui]." Feng said that he could not cross-train until the company made corrective action
regarding his claims of workplace harassment and made the analytical environment peaceful. Zhang said that
he still needed to have the meeting to discuss cross-training. Feng then responded by criticizing Qui's
knowledge of his machines and by indicating that Qui could learn how to operate Feng's equipment by means
other than cross-training with Feng.
On November 15, 2005, Feng sent an email to Hank Grotewold, another Sabic employee, saying that earlier
in the day when Feng walked back to the lab, Athrough the door mirror, [Feng] saw that [Andy] [sic] turning
around his head and hostilely looking at [Feng]." Feng said that he did not hear what Andy said to Grotewold
but that if it was something hostile, Grotewold should try to stop it. According to an email that is an exhibit to
Feng's deposition, Grotewold spoke to Feng and told him that Andy and Grotewold were only talking about
the weather and how it was raining heavily.
On November 18, 2005, Sabic suspended Feng for one day without pay and placed him on probation. In
Sabic's suspension letter, Ellis mentioned Feng's continued failure to have a medical doctor evaluate his eye
problem and Feng's refusal to cross-train with Qui just a few days before. Ellis stated that Sabic had fully
evaluated Feng's harassment claims and that Feng could not use them as an excuse for failing to perform his
work duties. Ellis warned Feng that if he continued to violate the conditions of his employment he would be
After receiving written notice of his suspension, on November 18, 2005, Feng emailed Pemberton, Ellis, and
Bughdadi stating that after reviewing his suspension letter, Feng decided that on his suspension day he
would file two more charges with the EEOCCone for disability discrimination and one for retaliation. He said
he was giving notice of these claims. As to retaliation, Feng stated that after he claimed workplace
harassment, Sabic engaged in steps geared toward terminating his employment and pushed him to work with
a hostile person by requiring him to cross-train with Qui.
On December 6, 2005, Feng sent an email (1) stating that he believed that a third person should observe any
cross-training although Zhang previously had said it was unnecessary, (2) again suggesting means other
than cross-training by which Qui could learn how to operate Feng's equipment, (3) responding that he could
not finish his draft of procedures for his equipment because of his medical condition, (4) asking to review
Qui's drafts of procedures for his equipment, and (5) stating that he wanted all recipients of the email to know
that Athere could be any type of unexpected events generated from the hostile environment." On December
7, 2005, Ellis, Zhang, Qui, and Feng had a meeting to discuss the cross-training issue following Feng's
December 6 email. Feng admitted at his deposition that he called Qui a liar at this meeting.
On December 9, 2005, Sabic terminated Feng's employment. At his deposition, Feng testified that
Pemberton and Ellis came into his lab and Ellis announced Feng was terminated for insubordination.
Does the summary-judgment evidence raise a genuine issue of fact as to causation?
The uncontroverted summary-judgment evidence proves many instances of insubordination by Feng,
including: (1) his repeated failure to provide a medical doctor's evaluation of his eye problem, (2) his refusal
to work on the procedures for his instruments prior to his alleged eye problem, (3) his failure to cross-train
with Qui when requested to do so, and (4) his refusal to stay within his job duties and to avoid criticizing Qui's
work and to avoid telling Zhang how he should perform his duties as supervisor. Furthermore, Feng's
subjective beliefs, for example that he was being retaliated against for protected activity, are not sufficient to
overcome Sabic's summary-judgment evidence. See Russo v. Smith Intern., Inc., 93 S.W.3d 428, 440 (Tex.
App.- Houston [14th Dist. 1999, pet. denied). Feng's conclusory statements that he was not insubordinate
do not raise a genuine issue of material fact. See Coastal Transport Co., Inc. v. Crown Cent. Petroleum
Corp., 136 S.W.3d 227, 232 (Tex. 2004) (stating that even unobjected-to conclusory testimony does not raise
a fact issue); Herbert v. City of Forest Hill, 189 S.W.3d 369, 377 (Tex. App.- Fort Worth 2006, no pet.). The
uncontroverted evidence shows that Sabic took seriously Feng's allegations of unlawful discrimination and
religious harassment, that Sabic investigated Feng's allegations, and determined that they lacked merit.
Feng disagreed with these conclusions and continued to repeat the same allegations and to engage in
increasingly insubordinate behavior.
We have carefully reviewed all of the summary-judgment evidence in the light most favorable to Feng,
crediting evidence favorable to Feng if reasonable jurors could, and disregarding contrary evidence unless
reasonable jurors could not. See Mack Trucks, Inc., 206 S.W.3d at 582. Based on this review, we have
determined that reasonable and fair-minded jurors could not conclude that Sabic's proffered reason for
Feng's termination was a pretext or that Feng's engaging in the alleged protected activity was the but-for
cause of his employment termination or any other adverse employment action. See Strong v. Univ.
Healthcare Sys., 482 F.3d 802, 807-08 (5th Cir. 2007) (holding that mere temporal proximity between
protected activity and termination of employment is not enough to raise a fact issue as to but-for causation
requirement in retaliation claim); Pineda, 360 F.3d at 489B90; Swanson, 110 F.3d 1180, 1188-89 & n.3 (5th
Cir. 1997); Herbert, 189 S.W.3d at 376B77; Thomas, 2 S.W.3d at 739B40. Therefore, the trial court did not
err in granting summary judgment. Accordingly, we overrule Feng's appellate issue and affirm the trial court's
/s/ Kem Thompson Frost
Panel consists of Justices Anderson and Frost and Senior Justice Hudson.*
 Feng cites Burlington Northern & Santa Fe Ry. Co. v. White for the proposition that whether retaliation
has occurred is always a question for the jury. See 548 U.S. 53, 70, 126 S. Ct. 2405, 2416, 165 L. Ed. 2d
345 (2006). The White court did not so hold. See id. Rather, the White court addressed the legal standard
for determining whether an employer has Adiscriminated" against a person who has engaged in protected
activity under the federal statute upon which section 21.055 of the Texas Labor Code is based. See id., 548
U.S. at 56B72, 126 S. Ct. at 2408B17. The White court concluded that there was sufficient evidence to
support the jury's verdict in favor of the plaintiff on her retaliation claim in a case in which the employer did not
dispute that there was sufficient evidence that it had a retaliatory motivation in taking the challenged action.
The White case is not on point. See id., 548 U.S. at 70B72, 126 S. Ct. at 2416B17.
 Feng cites several cases stating that, when the adverse employment action occurs shortly after the
protected activity, this temporal proximity alone may be sufficient to provide the causal connection for the
claimant to make out a prima facie case of retaliation. See Evans v. City of Houston, 246 F.3d 344, 354 (5th
Cir. 2001); Romo v. Texas Dep't of Transportation, 48 S.W.3d 265, 272B73 (Tex. App.- San Antonio 2001, no
pet.); Fields v. Teamsters Local Union No. 988, 23 S.W.3d 517, 528B29 (Tex. App.- Houston [1st Dist.] 2000,
pet. denied). Because we presume that Feng has made out a prima facie case of retaliation, these cases are
not on point.
 Indeed, in his deposition testimony, Feng admitted that, on the day he was fired, Sabic articulated to him
that his employment was being terminated because he was insubordinate.
 Because his last name is similar to another Sabic employee, we refer to Qui Nguyen in this opinion by his
 Because his last name is similar to Qui's, we refer to Andy Nuyen in this opinion by his first name.
 Feng cites this email as evidence that he completed a draft of the procedures by August 10, 2005, but
this email is no evidence that Feng completed the document containing procedures for one of his
instruments. Feng admitted at his deposition that he never completed such a document.
 Feng had filed a charge of racial and religious discrimination with the EEOC on October 22, 2005. The
record indicates that Sabic received notice of this charge on November 10, 2005.
 Feng argues that the evidence is conflicting as to whether he was terminated for insubordination because
of a Sabic memorandum detailing discussions leading up to the termination of Feng's employment. Feng
relies on one sentence of the memo stating that Bughdadi Adid not believe the situation had created any
problems for the workforce as a whole." According to Feng, this sentence shows that Bughdadi, unlike Ellis,
did not believe that Feng's insubordinate behavior was disruptive to the work environment. However, in this
sentence Bughdadi addresses the workforce as a whole, not Feng's work environment. According to the
memo, Bughdadi mentioned a concern that Feng might commit a violent act, and the memo states that
Bughdadi concurred with Ellis's assessment of the situation.
 Likewise, Feng made several conclusory statements in his deposition testimony that Sabic engaged in
retaliation against him and that when he protested about harassment or racial discrimination, Sabic retaliated
and terminated his employment. These conclusory statements also do not raise a genuine issue of material
fact. See Coastal Transport Co., Inc., 136 S.W.3d at 232; Herbert, 189 S.W.3d at 377.
 Before Feng was given the October 6, 2005 letter, Zhang sent an email to Bughdadi listing the following
points that Zhang suggested for inclusion in the letter: (1) Feng Amade baseless accusations against
colleagues"; (2) Feng Acreated hostile [sic] working environment"; (3) and Feng Adelayed in writing analytical
procedures." Feng asserts that this email raises a fact issue as to whether Sabic intended to retaliate against
him for complaining about Qui's alleged discrimination. However, nothing in this email indicates that Sabic
was giving Feng the October 6 letter or taking adverse employment action against him because he
complained about discrimination by Qui.
 Citing his annual performance evaluations, Feng asserts that before he complained of discrimination, he
was viewed by Sabic as a stellar employee. However, Feng alleges that his first complaint of discrimination
was on August 24, 2005. In his last performance review for the period ending November 15, 2004, Feng
received a rating of only Aacceptable," which was the middle rating in a five-rating system. The undisputed
summary-judgment evidence shows that Feng engaged in significant insubordinate behavior between
November 15, 2004, and his employment termination on December 9, 2005. Feng also relies on a preliminary
draft of a performance evaluation for Feng for 2005; however, this evaluation was never completed and does
not raise a fact issue as to pretext.
Senior Justice Harvey Hudson sitting by assignment.