Thank you for sharing!

Your article was successfully shared with the contacts you provided.
Employment Law No. 13-02-00160-CV, 3/27/2003. Click here for the full text of this decision FACTS: This is an interlocutory appeal from the trial court’s order denying a plea to the jurisdiction based on sovereign immunity. In a single issue, appellants, Texas Department of Health, Leonel Vela, Karen Hollingsworth, Derric Trevino, Dora Del Toro and Enedina Magana, contend the trial court erred in denying their plea to the jurisdiction. HOLDING: Reversed and rendered. Sovereign immunity does not preclude a claim that the state deprived the plaintiff of property without due process of law. Brazosport Sav. & Loan Ass’n v. Am. Sav. & Loan Ass’n, 161 Tex. 543 (1961). The appellants contend that Rocha’s first amended petition fails to allege any facts to support a claim that his constitutional right of due process was violated. Unless an employee has a property interest in continued employment, absent an infringement on his liberty, he is not entitled to procedural or substantive due process when his state employment is terminated. Cleveland Bd. of Educ. v. Loudermill, 470 U.S. 532 (1985). Thus, the dispositive question becomes whether Rocha sufficiently pleaded a property or liberty interest in his employment with TDH to invoke the “due course of law” clause of the Texas Constitution. Under the employment-at-will doctrine, absent a specific agreement to the contrary, the relationship between an employer and employee is “at-will,” meaning that either party may terminate the employment relationship for any reason or no reason at all. Tex. Farm Bureau Mut. Ins. Cos. v. Sears, 84 S.W.3d 604 (Tex. 2002). Rocha’s petition is devoid of any facts asserting that he had any type of agreement with TDH that created a property interest in his employment. In an effort to establish a property interest, Rocha attached documents to his appellate brief that appear to be portions of a TDH employee manual. These documents set forth the procedures for the dismissal of unsatisfactory employees, as well as possible reasons for dismissal. However, this court must hear and determine a case on the record as filed, and may not consider documents attached as exhibits to briefs. RWL Constr. Inc. v. Erickson, 877 S.W.2d 449 (Tex. App.-Houston [1st Dist.] 1994, no writ) Because Rocha’s first amended petition does not allege a property interest requiring due-process considerations, the court holds that the trial court erred in denying appellants’ plea to the jurisdiction as it relates to Rocha’s claimed violation of procedural and substantive due process. The appellants contend that Rocha also has failed to plead an actionable equal protection claim under the Texas Constitution. Article I, �3a of the Texas Constitution provides, in part, “Equality under the law shall not be denied or abridged because of sex, race, color, creed, or national origin.” Rocha’s first amended petition does not allege any specific facts showing he was denied any rights, or treated differently, because of his sex, race, color, creed or national origin. Rocha simply alleges that other TDH employees who were accused of sexual harassment were not terminated and that such conduct violates his rights to equal protection. These facts, even if taken as true, do not allege an equal protection claim sufficient to overcome the sovereign immunity of appellants. Therefore, the court holds that the trial court erred in denying appellants’ plea to the jurisdiction as it relates to Rocha’s equal protection claim. OPINION: Hinojosa, J.; Hinojosa, Castillo and Chavez, JJ.

Want to continue reading?
Become a Free ALM Digital Reader.

Benefits of a Digital Membership:

  • Free access to 3 articles* every 30 days
  • Access to the entire ALM network of websites
  • Unlimited access to the ALM suite of newsletters
  • Build custom alerts on any search topic of your choosing
  • Search by a wide range of topics

*May exclude premium content
Already have an account?


ALM Legal Publication Newsletters

Sign Up Today and Never Miss Another Story.

As part of your digital membership, you can sign up for an unlimited number of a wide range of complimentary newsletters. Visit your My Account page to make your selections. Get the timely legal news and critical analysis you cannot afford to miss. Tailored just for you. In your inbox. Every day.

Copyright © 2020 ALM Media Properties, LLC. All Rights Reserved.