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Click here for the full text of this decision FACTS:Paula Mathews filed an age and race discrimination complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in October 2004. In March 2005, the parties executed a mediation conciliation agreement in which Port Arthur Independent School District agreed to pay Mathews $35,500. The agreement constituted a request for closure of the charge. PAISD also agreed “that there shall be no discrimination or retaliation of any kind against Paula as a result of filing this charge.” The parties agreed that “the EEOC is authorized to investigate compliance with this agreement” and that the agreement could be “specifically enforced in court by the EEOC or the parties and may be used as evidence in a subsequent proceeding in which a breach of this agreement is alleged.” PAISD agreed to provide Mathews a letter of recommendation. Although PAISD did not agree to rehire Mathews, the agreement stated that “Paula is encouraged by Port Arthur ISD to apply for any opening in her qualifications and, within the norms of the school Principal having hiring authority, [PAISD] will support her application.” In April 2005, the EEOC joined the settlement, agreed to “terminate its investigation and to not use the above referenced charge as a jurisdictional basis for a civil action.” In a petition filed in January 2006, Mathews sued the school district for breach of contract and retaliation. Mathews alleged PAISD breached the settlement agreement by failing to hire her for positions available after April 2005 for which she was the most qualified. Mathews alleged the positions were intentionally and purposefully filled with less-qualified individuals. Mathews also alleged that the principals of the schools did not support her application for openings in her qualification areas. Mathews alleged PAISD retaliated against her. The school district’s plea to the jurisdiction alleged the trial court lacked jurisdiction over Mathews’ claims, because Mathews failed to submit her retaliation claim to either the EEOC or the Texas Workforce Commission. In response, Mathews contended that the settlement completed the administrative process. She argued that the trial court had jurisdiction over her claims relating to the school district’s breach of the settlement agreement and that the retaliation claim was ancillary to her claims regarding breach of the settlement agreement. The trial court denied the plea to the jurisdiction, and PAISD appealed. PAISD contended that the trial court erred in determining that Mathews was not required to exhaust the administrative remedies provided by Title VII before asserting her claims against PAISD for breach of contract and retaliation. HOLDING:Reversed and dismissed. Generally, the court stated, exhaustion of administrative remedies is a prerequisite to bringing a civil action under Title VII or the Texas Commission on Human Rights Act. Typically, unexhausted retaliation claims must be ancillary to a properly exhausted and timely filed discrimination claim. The court found that Mathews’ case was not such a case. The settlement agreement between Mathews and PAISD, the court stated, anticipated further involvement by the EEOC in the event PAISD engaged in a retaliatory act, as the agreement stated that “[t]he parties agree that the EEOC is authorized to investigate compliance with this agreement and that this agreement may be specifically enforced in court by the EEOC or the parties and may be used as evidence in a subsequent proceeding in which a breach of this agreement is alleged.” Moreover, the court found no compelling reason to ignore the statutorily required exhaustion of remedies. Specifically, the court found that if PAISD breached the agreement, Mathews could complain to the EEOC and either obtain a right-to-sue letter or the EEOC could act to enforce the agreement itself. Likewise, if PAISD committed a new act of retaliation, Mathews could complain to the EEOC. Either way, PAISD could not exploit its earlier conciliation to Mathews’ detriment. Thus, the court found that Mathews’ claims were subject to the statutory prerequisites for filing suit on claims subject to administrative procedures. Accordingly, the court held the trial court erred when it denied the school district’s plea to the jurisdiction. OPINION:McKeithen, C.J.; McKeithen, C.J., and Gaultney and Horton, JJ.

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