Women and Justice: Court: Court of Appeals of Texas – Houston Division

Domestic Case Law

Tex. S. Univ. v. Rodriguez Court of Appeals of Texas – Houston Division (2011)

Sexual harassment

Lisa Rodriguez was a patrol officer at Texas Southern University (“TSU”) who alleged that her supervisor sexually harassed her by making sexual innuendos, making inappropriate remarks, commenting on her physical attractiveness, asking about the color of her undergarments, and keeping a picture of her on his desk.  Eventually, Ms. Rodriguez filed a charge form with the Texas Workforce Commission Civil Rights Division (“TWC”) alleging, among other things, 13.  In the charge form, she alleged that the 13 began a week after she was hired, and had continued until as recently as four months before filing the TWC complaint.  As a defense, TSU claimed Ms. Rodriguez had failed to meet the 180-day deadline for filing the complaint.  In Texas, a complaint under the Texas Labor Code for 13 (a type of sex discrimination) must be filed “not later than the 180th day after the date the alleged unlawful employment practice occurred.”  Tex. Lab. Code Ann. § 21.202(a).  TSU argued that because Ms. Rodriguez only documented 13 at the beginning of her employment, the 180-day deadline had passed.  However, the court recognized there are two types of 13—quid pro quo and hostile work environment.  “Quid pro quo harassment occurs when employment benefits are conditioned on sexual favors, while a hostile work environment is the result of 13.”  Since Ms. Rodriguez’s claim was of a hostile work environment, the “continuing violation doctrine” applied since the “unlawful employment practice manifest[ed] itself over time, rather than as a series of discrete acts.”  Since Ms. Rodriguez alleged “a series of related acts, one or more of which [fell] within the limitations period,” the complaint was timely filed and the appellate court found that it had jurisdiction over the case.