United States District Court, N.D. Texas, Dallas Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
A. FITZWATER UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
employment discrimination action by plaintiff Maria Zavala
(“Zavala”) against defendant Carrollton-Farmers
Branch Independent School District (“CFBISD”),
CFBISD moves for summary judgment dismissing Zavala's
claims for retaliatory hostile work environment under the
Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (“ADA”),
42 U.S.C. § 12101 et seq., and race-and/or
national origin-based discrimination under Title VII of the
Civil Rights Act of 1964 (“Title VII”), 42 U.S.C.
§ 2000e et seq. For the reasons that follow,
the court grants CFBISD's motion and dismisses this
action by judgment filed today.
court detailed the facts of this case in its prior memorandum
opinion and order, Zavala v. Carrollton-Farmers Branch
Independent School District, 2017 WL 274133, at *1 (N.D.
Tex. Jan. 20, 2017) (Fitzwater, J.) (“Zavala
I”), and will only recount the factual background
and procedural history that are necessary to understand this
decision. In Zavala I the court dismissed
Zavala's claims for hostile work environment under the
ADA-stemming from her husband's complaint against CFBISD
to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission-and for
hostile work environment under Title VII, but granted her
leave to replead. Id. at *6. After CFBISD moved for
summary judgment on the entire case, Zavala filed an amended
complaint asserting only claims for retaliatory hostile work
environment under the ADA and race-and/or national
origin-based discrimination based on disparate treatment
under Title VII.
summary judgment movant will not have the burden of proof on
a claim at trial, it can obtain summary judgment by pointing
the court to the absence of evidence on any essential element
of the nonmovant's claim. See Celotex Corp. v.
Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 325 (1986). Once it does so, the
nonmovant must go beyond her pleadings and designate specific
facts demonstrating that there is a genuine issue for trial.
See Id. at 324; Little v. Liquid Air Corp.,
37 F.3d 1069, 1075 (5th Cir. 1994) (en banc) (per curiam). An
issue is genuine if the evidence is such that a reasonable
jury could return a verdict for the nonmovant. Anderson
v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986). The
nonmovant's failure to produce proof as to any essential
element renders all other facts immaterial. See TruGreen
Landcare, L.L.C. v. Scott, 512 F.Supp.2d 613, 623 (N.D.
Tex. 2007) (Fitzwater, J.). Summary judgment is mandatory
where the nonmovant fails to meet this burden.
Little, 37 F.3d at 1076.
court begins with Zavala's ADA-based retaliatory hostile
work environment claim.
court discussed in Zavala I, the Fifth Circuit has
neither recognized nor foreclosed retaliatory hostile work
environment claims. See Fallon v. Potter, 277
Fed.Appx. 422, 424 (5th Cir. 2008) (per curiam). At least
five other circuits recognize such a cause of action.
Bryan v. Chertoff, 217 Fed.Appx. 289, 293 n.3 (5th
Cir. 2007) (per curiam) (“At least the Second, Sixth,
Seventh, Ninth, and Tenth Circuits have adopted this cause of
action.”). Given the absence of binding authority,
courts in the Fifth Circuit have assumed that a retaliatory
hostile work environment claim can be brought. See Rowe
v. Jewell, 88 F.Supp.3d 647, 673 (E.D. La. 2015)
(“[T]his court will assume, as other district courts in
this circuit have done, that [plaintiff] has a cause of
action for a retaliatory hostile work environment.); see
also Tejada v. Travis Ass'n for the Blind, 2014 WL
2881450, at *3 (W.D. Tex. June 25, 2014).
to succeed under the ADA on a claim for disability-based
workplace harassment, a plaintiff must demonstrate:
(1) that she belongs to a protected group; (2) that she was
subjected to unwelcome harassment; (3) that the harassment
complained of was based on her disability or disabilities;
(4) that the harassment complained of affected a term,
condition, or privilege of employment; and (5) that the
employer knew or should have known of the harassment and
failed to take prompt, remedial action.
Flowers v. S. Reg'l Physician Servs. Inc., 247
F.3d 229, 235-36 (5th Cir. 2001). The legal standard for
workplace harassment is “high.” Gowesky v.
Singing River Hosp. Sys., 321 F.3d 503, 509 (5th Cir.
2003). But for claims for a retaliatory hostile environment,
district courts in this circuit follow a modified approach:
[T]he first and third elements [of a prima facie case] have a
different focus. In the retaliation context, the first
element would require proof that the plaintiff had engaged in
protected activity, and the third element would require
demonstration of a causal ...