Last week the Supreme Court of Texas granted a Petition for Review to hear the case of Mission Independent School District v. Garcia. While the petition for review has three issues (issue four was not challenged by the respondent), only one is relevant to private employers. The school district argues for a bright line rule that if the plaintiff-employee is replaced by someone older than he is, there can be no state age discrimination claim as a matter of law. As worded by the School District, whether a plaintiff can establish a prima facie case of age discrimination when plaintiff-employee’s replacement is older than the plaintiff.
In Garcia, Ms. Garcia worked for the School District for 27 years. She sued her former employer (and the individual supervisor) for a variety of alleged discrimination (i.e., the kitchen sink approach) including age discrimination. The School District challenged Garcia’s claim through a plea to the jurisdiction which entitles a governmental employer to an interlocutory appeal (i.e., during the pendency of the case rather than after final judgment). It is in this procedural posture that the case reached the Supreme Court of Texas. The substance of the School District’s argument is that because Garcia’s replacement was three years older than she was, she cannot make out a prima facie case of age discrimination as a matter of law. The School District’s argument seems logical, but Courts rarely like to adopt bright-line rules in employment discrimination cases. The case is scheduled for oral argument on January 10, 2012 and a decision is expected before the end of September.
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