The case on which this summary is based may no longer be current law.
Also, if the case was decided on summary judgment, the court recited the
"facts" in the light most favorable to the non-movant, which may not be
the true facts.
Messer v. Meno, 130 F.3d 130 (5th Cir. December
Keywords: Title VII (race and sex discrimination, failure to
promote; unequal pay; retaliation; statute of limitations, continuing violation theory)
Introduction: Karen Messer sued her employer, the Texas Education
Agency (TEA), under Title VII for race and sex discrimination in the form of failure to
promote and unequal pay. Messer also alleged retaliation. The district court granted summary judgment on behalf of the TEA. The Fifth Circuit
affirms the dismissal of the retaliation claim; but reverses the dismissal of the race and
sex discrimination claims.
Facts: Messer worked for the TEA from 1978 to 1996. Throughout Messer's tenure, the TEA
maintained affirmative action plans (AAPs). Until 1995, the expressed goal of the AAPs was
a workforce balanced with a proportionate number of minorities and women in the
population. In 1995, the slightly modified goal was to achieve a workforce balanced with a
proportionate number of minorities and women in the workforce.
Messer claims that the AAPs resulted in her being discriminated against on the basis of
her race and sex. She also claims that she was retaliated against for making complaints.
- Statute of Limitations
- The district court found that Messer's complaint involving the promotion
of Jim Johnson, a black male, was time barred because it occurred more than 300 days prior
to the filing of her EEOC complaint.
- Messer argues that the continuing violation theory should apply.
- Because the district court ignored this theory, this issue remains open
- Title VII claims
- Under the burden shifting analysis, the TEA articulated
nondiscriminatory reasons for failing to promote Messer and for pay differentials between
her and other employees.
- However, the district court erred in finding that Messer had submitted
insufficient evidence of pretext to create a jury question.
- Messer submitted evidence that created a jury question as to whether
race and gender were considerations in employment decisions.
- Race-conscious employment practices in general
- All racial classifications, imposed by whatever federal, state, or local
actor, must be analyzed under a strict scrutiny standard.
- Such classifications must serve a compelling government interest, and
must be narrowly tailored to further that interest.
- The Supreme Court has insisted upon some showing of prior discrimination
by the governmental unit involved before allowing limited use of racial classifications in
order to remedy such discrimination.
- Retaliation claim
- This claim fails because Messer did not allege that she was subjected to
an ultimate employment decision in retaliation for filing her discrimination charge.
- Therefore, the Fifth Circuit reverses the grant of summary judgment on
the discrimination claims and affirms dismissal of the retaliation claim. Click
here to see actual case.