Plaintiff employee unable to establish “pretext” after employer enacted policy that promotions could only come from within individual departments

Arthur Butcher v. City of San Antonio, Acting by and through its agent City Public Service Board d/b/a CPS Energy 04-15-00338-CV (Tex. App. – San Antonio, March 9, 2016)

This is a race discrimination case where the San Antonio Court of Appeals affirmed the dismissal of the Plaintiff’s claims based on lack of pretext.

Butcher was employed by CPS Energy, the City’s electric utility. Butcher was not assigned to the Energy Development Department, but applied for a manager position within the Department. Due to a hiring freeze and pursuant to policy, CPS only promoted from within the department so Butcher was not eligible. Further, the position was eliminated after budget concerns. Butcher sued for discrimination. The trial court granted CPS Energy’s traditional and no evidence summary judgment motions. The only claims Butcher appealed were discrimination based on race and color.

The court went through the burden shifting analysis for employment discrimination cases. It assumed, without deciding that Butcher established his prima facie case. The only issue to address was whether CPS Energy’s offered legitimate, non-discriminatory reason for its employment action was a mere pretext to discrimination. CPS Energy listed and established budgetary adjustments eliminating certain positions and its hiring freeze.  Further CPS Energy offered the policy that the manager position could only be filled from within the Department. All qualify as legitimate non-discriminatory reasons for not promoting Butcher. Butcher did not offer any legitimate evidence the reasons were pretextual. His only evidence was a remark in the O&M Budget Analysis that the position is in the staffing budget. However, Butcher ignored the language on “the form preceding the remark which stated the position would be filled through an internal posting so that it would not result in an increased headcount. Thus, reading the language of the form as a whole, the inference Butcher attempts to draw from the isolated remark is not reasonable.”  As a result the trial court properly granted summary judgment.

If you would like to read this opinion click here. Panel: Chief Justice Marion, Justice Angelini and Justice Alvarez. Memorandum Opinion by Justice Alvarez. The attorneys listed for the City are Christine Elaine Reinhard, Justin Barbour, and Shannon B. Schmoyer.