Fifth Circuit Holds, in Issue of First Impression, that But-For Causation Applies to Claims Arising Under the Jury System Improvement Act
Both federal and Texas law prohibit discrimination against employees for participating in various types of jury service. Imagine an employer defending itself from the accusation that it terminated an employee because of her jury service and then looking across the courtroom to see the individuals who will most likely decide the merits of its case –a jury of citizens who, if employed, are away from their jobs due to jury service. An employer based in the Fifth Circuit was almost in this situation.
In a case of first impression in the Fifth Circuit, the Court of Appeals held that a “But-for” causation standard applied to claims arising under the federal Jury System Improvement Act –the federal law that prohibits discrimination against employees for participating in the jury service for any U.S. court. Texas has a similar provision that prohibits discrimination against employees for participating in state court jury service.
In Rogers v. Bromac Title Services, LLC, Wanda Rogers was a closing officer for Bromac. She was summoned and eventually selected to serve as a grand juror. Her grand jury service ran from to August 19, 2011, through February 19, 2012. That service was ultimately extended to August 19, 2012.
Rogers was terminated on April 20, 2012. The stated reason for Roger’s termination was two comments she made to a group of co-workers deemed inappropriate by the employer –the second of which was made two days before the termination. Rogers sued and the employer moved for summary judgment. The trial court, utilizing the McDonnell-Douglas burden shifting analysis applied a but-for causation standard and dismissed Rogers’ claims because she could not create a fact issue on whether she would have been terminated but-for her jury service and also concluded that she created no factual issue on the veracity of Bromac’s legitimate non-discriminatory reason for its decision.
On appeal, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court’s ruling. The appellate court held that in evaluating claims arising under the JSIA, the plaintiff must prove that she would not have been subjected to the adverse employment action but-for her federal jury service. The Court also agreed with the trial court that Rogers’ evidence was insufficient to create a genuine issue of material fact that Bromac’s stated reasons were false or pretextual.
You can download a copy of Rogers v. Bromac Title Services, LLC here.
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