The Huntsville Item, Huntsville, TX

Local News

October 9, 2013

Judge: Not enough proof in TDCJ lawsuit


A U.S. District Judge tossed out a former TDCJ employee’s gender discrimination lawsuit on Aug. 14.
Judge David Hittner granted the Texas Department of Criminal Justice’s motion for summary judgment and immediately followed-up by dismissing the case that was brought forth by former public information director Michelle Lyons.
She filed suit against TDCJ claiming gender discrimination after she was demoted as director of public information to public information officer in early 2012. Following the demotion, TDCJ reassigned Lyons to the Executive Services department. She resigned from the agency in May 2012. 
TDCJ accused Lyons, who worked for the agency for 10 years, of keeping inaccurate time sheets. After an investigation, she was demoted to PIO and received a pay cut. TDCJ also suspended Lyons for five days and placed her on probation for nine months.
In the written opinion, Hittner said Lyons failed to meet the last of four prima facie – or legal requirements – to prove her case for gender discrimination.
“Lyons bases her prima facie case on the argument that she was treated less favorably than a similarly situated male employee – (current TDCJ public information director Jason Clark) – during (TDCJ’s) investigations of both employees,” he wrote. “Lyons has not offered any evidence that calls into question TDCJ’s investigative process or shows that Collier’s ultimate decision was in any way motivated by an intent to discriminate against her based on her gender. Rather, Lyons argues only that TDCJ has misrepresented a number of issues to the Court…Lyons has not provided any evidence that TDCJ’s proffered explanation was false.”
In order to establish a basis for a gender discrimination case, a plaintiff must prove four things: 1) They are a member of a protected class’ 2) They were qualified for the position they wanted or held; 3) They received adverse employment actions; and 4) They were replaced by someone who was not a member of their protected class or treated less favorably than another similarly situated employee outside of the protected group.

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