Amarillo Court of Appeals holds 1) no race discrimination when employer hires from same protected class, 2) broken ankle is not ADA disability in this case, 3) age difference alone is not enough

Arnold Jordan v. Tarrant County Hospital District d/b/a JPs Health Network, 07-16-00034-CV (Tex. App—Amarillo, August 2, 2016)

This is an employment discrimination case where the Amarillo Court of Appeals affirmed the granting of the Hospital District’s summary judgment motion.

Jordan alleges Tarrant County Hospital District d/b/a JPS Health Network (“JPS”) failed to hire him for the position of Senior Psychiatric Tech because of age, race and disability. He brought claims only under federal law. The case was in state court in the Tarrant County District Court, but was transferred to the Amarillo Court of Appeals pursuant to the Texas Supreme Court’s docket equalization efforts under TEX. GOV’T CODE ANN. § 73.001 (West 2013).  The trial court in Tarrant County granted JPS’ motion for summary judgment and Jordan appealed.

As to race discrimination, Jordan asserts he established a prima facie case by showing the position he applied for remained open and JPS continued to seek applicants for some time. JPS contends that Jordan is required to show proof the position was filled by a person not in Jordan’s protected class.  The court held that while a prima facie case can be made when a position remains open, it cannot be said that an employer’s employment decisions were racially motivated when, as here, the employer eventually hired a qualified person from the same protected group of which plaintiff is a member. The trial court properly granted summary judgment as to race discrimination. With regards to the disability discrimination claim, Jordan suffered a broken ankle while working for JPS that “kept [him] off work” until December of 2011. However, due to Jordan’s exhaustion of personal and FMLA leave, JPS terminated him before his release to return to work. “While this evidence establishes that Jordan sustained an injury, it is not evidence of whether he is currently disabled within the meaning of the ADA.”  As to the age discrimination claim, the only evidence provided by Jordan is that JPS filled the position with a forty-five-year-old while he was fifty-nine at the time.  Jordan has to present some evidence to support his claim of age discrimination and this is not sufficient to establish a “but for” discriminatory motive. As a result, the trial court properly granted JPS’ summary judgment motion.

If you would like to read this opinion click here. The panel includes Justice Campbell, Justice Hancock and Justice Pirtle. Justice Hancock delivered the opinion of the court.  Attorney listed for Jordan is N. Sue Allen. The attorneys listed for JPS are Jerry D. Bullard, Cory Shane Hartsfield, Scott A. Cummings, and Neal w. Adams.

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