Officers win disparate impact suit against City for reorganization (substituted opinion)

City of Austin v. Raymond E. Chandler, et al., 03-12-00057-CV (Tex. App. – Austin, April 18, 2014).

This is a substituted opinion for one the court issued on February 7, 2014. The original summary and opinion can be found here. Essentially, several public safety officers over 40 sued the City of Austin when they lost rank and years of service due to a merger of the Public Safety Emergency Management Department (“PSEM”) and the Austin Police Department.  The trial court ruled for the officers. The City appealed arguing the officer’s disparate impact claims were not in their EEOC charge.

The Court held that while the EEOC charges do not use the terms “disparate impact” or “facially neutral policy” the substance of the complaints identify a facially neutral policy having the specific negative impact on older officers. The court noted that given 33 of the officers identified the policy, the EEOC would reasonably be expected to investigate the case under both a disparate-treatment and disparate-impact theory. The court then went through a lengthy analysis of the testimony and evidence and determined the evidence was legally and factually sufficient to support the jury’s verdict. For an attorney dealing with impacts due to benefits as well as pay, this analysis can be helpful in understanding what to avoid.

If you would like to read this opinion click here.  Panel: Chief Justice Jones, Justice Goodwin and Justice Field. Opinion delivered by Justice Field. Attorney for Appellant City of Austin is Lynn Carter. Attorneys for Appellee’s are Walter Taylor and Mark Crampton.