Employee’s retaliation lawsuit dismissed since no “but-for” causation established in MSJ.

Crutcher  v. Dallas Independent School District, 05-11-01112-CV (Tex. App. – Dallas, August 26, 2013).

This is an employment retaliation case. Crutcher filed a prior lawsuit against the Dallas Independent School District (“DISD”) in 2004 which was settled out of court. She was originally terminated due to allegations she was having sexual intercourse with a colleague in a supply closet. In 2009 Crutcher applied for another teacher/coasching position with DISD but did not receive it. Crutcher sued again for retaliation alleging she was not hired due to her initial lawsuit being filed in 2004.

Crutcher applied for the position in 2009 and was recommended for the job, but the HR Director noted the position was not properly posted and declined the recommendation. The HR Director testified she was not aware of the 2004 lawsuit.  After the job was properly posted, Crutcher did not reapply. After discovery, DISD filed for summary judgment which the trial court granted. Crutcher appealed.

The Dallas Court of Appeals began its analysis going through the federal McDonald Douglas burden shifting standards. Under that standard the court required a “but-for” causal nexus between the protected activity and the adverse employment action. Based on the evidence in the record, the court determined held Crutcher could not establish a but-for causal nexus. Those who interviewed her recommended her even after the 2004 lawsuit was disclosed to them.  However, the HR Director was not made aware of the 2004 lawsuit until after she rejected the recommendation in order to provide proper posting. Crutcher did not reapply after the posting. Support for Crutcher was withdrawn by the interviewing campus after discovering the grounds for her original termination (but no mention or knowledge of the prior lawsuit). Further, the court noted that the failure to hire occurred five years after the original lawsuit was filed. There is also no evidence to suggest that DISD failed to follow its ordinary policies. To the contrary, the summary judgment evidence reflects that one of the reasons Crutcher was not hired was because the position was not properly posted in accordance with district policy. As a result, Crutcher failed to establish a prima facie case of retaliation. Further, even if she had, DISD properly established a legitimate, non-discriminatory reason for the actions which was not countered by Crutcher.

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