Special contributing author Laura Mueller, City Attorney for Dripping Springs
Norris Rogers v. Houston Community College, 14-18-00591-CV (Tex. App.—Houston [14th Dist.], July 14, 2020) (mem. op.).
This case contains two claims: (1) disability discrimination under Texas Labor Code Section 21.105; and (2) breach of contract under Chapter 271 of the Texas Local Government Code. The Court of Appeals reversed-in-part and affirmed-in-part the trial court’s orders and reinstated the contract claim.
The plaintiff, and adjunct electrical instructor, argued he was terminated by the College because of a disability which prevented him from performing carpentry work or general construction work. He also argued a unilateral employment contract was created for employment. The College filed a no-evidence summary judgment on the disability claim and a plea to the jurisdiction on the contract claim. The trial court granted both and Rogers appealed.
To establish a prima facie case of discrimination based on disability, a plaintiff must show that the plaintiff suffered an adverse employment decision because of the disability. Donaldson v. Tex. Dept. of Aging & Disability Srvs., 495 S.W.3d 421, 436 (Tex. App.––Houston [1st Dist.] 2016, pet. denied). The plaintiff did not establish he was terminated because of his disabilities. During this analysis, the Court also discussed how a lack of causation in a no-evidence summary judgment argument can be presented. The Court affirmed the trial court’s order dismissing the disability claims against the College.
Next, to establish a contract, and waiver of immunity, under Chapter 271 of the Texas Local Government Code the plaintiff must prove that the contract: (1) is in writing, (2) states the essential terms of the contract, (3) provides for goods or services for the entity; and (4) was properly executed for the entity. The plaintiff presented evidence that a unilateral contract existed. The College stated that its policies and procedures would not allow this type of contract, but the Court held that the policies presented did not sufficiently negate the contract could exist. Because there was sufficient evidence from a jurisdictional standpoint that the contract could exist, the Court overturned the trial court’s order granting the plea to the jurisdiction.
If you would like to read this opinion click here. Panel consists of Justices Wise, Zimmerer, and Spain. Opinion by Justice Ken Wise.