Notice of non-renewal letter triggered date for EEOC complaint filing, not the date internal grievance was completed says San Antonio Court of Appeals

Alamo Community College District d/b/a Alamo Colleges v. Douglas Ryan 04-17-00196-CV (Tex.App– San Antonio, Texas November 1, 2017)

This is an interlocutory appeal in an employment discrimination case where the San Antonio  Court of Appeals reversed the denial of the District’s jurisdictional challenge and dismissed the Plaintiff’s claims.

Ryan was a full-time probationary faculty member at Northwest Vista College, which is part of the Alamo Community College District (“District”). In July 2012 Ryan was informed his contract would not be renewed based on performance and disciplinary issues. However, the letter stated Ryan was being offered a “terminal year contract” for the 2012-2013 academic year. The letter advised that if Ryan accepted the terminal year contract his employment would cease Spring of 2013. Ryan accepted the terminal year but appealed the non-renewal. He lost the administrative appeal and filed a complaint with the EEOC on January 31, 2013, then sued after receiving his right-to-sue letter. The District filed a summary judgment asserting Ryan failed to file an EEOC charge of discrimination within 180 days of the adverse employment action, specifically the July 2012 notice of non-renewal. Ryan asserted the date of adverse action was the loss of his administrative appeal in September 2012. The order was granted-in-part and denied-in-part. The District filed this appeal.

Ryan asserted the June 28, 2012, letter was merely a “proposal” or a “notice of an intended adverse action.” Ryan argued because he grieved the notice to the chancellor, “[t]he action did not become an adverse action until the Chancellor denied his grievance on September 27, 2012.” An unlawful employment practice occurs “when a discriminatory employment decision is made—not when the effects of that decision become manifest in later events.” The “180-day limitations period in the TCHRA begins ‘when the employee is informed of the allegedly discriminatory employment decision.’” There was nothing tentative or preliminary about the language in the June 2012 letter. The grievance procedure, by its nature, is a remedy for a prior decision, not an opportunity to influence that decision before it is made. The trial court denied the District’s motion for summary judgment as to Ryan’s contention that the District prevented him from being employed by any other college in the District. Ryan argues this claim did not accrue when he received notice of the employment decision and the dean acted in an ultra vires manner by including it in the letter. However, the dean simply notified Ryan of the District Board of Trustees’ policy regarding ineligibility for rehire. Thus, Ryan’s ineligibility for an adjunct position throughout the District was a decision made by the Board of Trustees and was an automatic consequence of the non-renewal. As a result, the deadline was the same date as the non-renewal. The record conclusively established the trial court did not have jurisdiction and the motion should have been granted in full.

If you want to read this opinion, click here. The panel consists of Justice Barnard Justices, Martinez, and Chapa. Justice Luz Elena D. Chapa delivered the opinion of the court. To see the attorneys listed for the Appellant and Appellee’s click here.

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