State News : Texas

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School district has immunity so employee can’t sue for workers’ compensation retaliatory discharge


On May 23, 2024, the Ninth Court of Appeals in Beaumont held that political subdivisions, including school districts, have governmental immunity from workers’ compensation retaliatory discharge claims brought by their employees under Chapter 451 of the Workers’ Compensation Act, except when the employee is a first responder. The case is Conroe Independent School District v. Osuna.

Maria Osuna, a custodian for Conroe Independent School District, sued her employer alleging she was wrongfully terminated in violation of section 451.001 of the Act which provides in part that a person may not discharge or in any other manner discriminate against an employee because the employee has filed a workers’ compensation claim in good faith.  The law provides for reasonable damages incurred by the employee as a result of the violation and reinstatement in the former position of employment.  

Osuna alleged in her lawsuit against the District that she was exposed to a chemical disinfectant that caused her to feel sick and that she was terminated when she got into a disagreement with the District over her work restrictions which provided that she not be exposed to the chemical disinfectant or other allegedly hazardous chemicals.  She claimed her termination was in violation of Chapter 451.

The court of appeals held that the trial court erred when it denied the District’s plea to the jurisdiction asserting that it had immunity from chapter 451 retaliation claims: “We hold the trial court erred by implying that the Legislature waived the immunity of the District to Osuna’s retaliatory discharge claim.”  The court of appeals granted the District’s plea and dismissed Osuna’s lawsuit.