Court of Appeals of Texas, Thirteenth District, Corpus Christi-Edinburg
appeal from the County Court at Law No. 4 of Hidalgo County,
Justices Benavides, Hinojosa, and Perkes
M. BENAVIDES, Justice
Edinburg Consolidated Independent School District (ECISD)
challenges the trial court's denial of its plea to the
jurisdiction on appellee Cristina Esparza's employment
discrimination suit. See Tex. Lab. Code Ann. §
21.051. By two issues, ECISD argues that the trial court
erred by denying its plea to the jurisdiction because
Esparza's administrative claim was filed too late to
permit the trial court to exercise jurisdiction over her
claims, and that ECISD is immune from Esparza's claim for
exemplary damages, which Esparza concedes on
appeal. We affirm.
was the principal of one of ECISD's middle schools in the
summer of 2016. After school was dismissed for the summer, a
private photo of Esparza that she sent to her husband was
widely disseminated on social media within the local
community. According to Esparza, the photo was not authorized
to be publicly disseminated and she complained to law
22, 2016, Esparza and the ECISD assistant superintendent had
a conversation in which Esparza was given the choice of
resigning or being fired. Esparza received a letter the next
day that informed her that her employment was suspended with
pay while the district investigated. On July 20, 2016,
Esparza received another letter from ECISD that informed her
that she was being reassigned from her principal position and
would be advised at a later date regarding her employment
status. On August 25, 2016, Esparza received a notice of
proposed termination of her employment from the ECISD Board
filed a complaint with the Texas Workforce Commission (TWC)
on January 24, 2017 and received a right to sue letter on
November 3, 2017. She filed suit against ECISD alleging
gender discrimination on December 22, 2017. ECISD filed its
answer and plea to the jurisdiction with exhibits on January
18, 2018. After an evidentiary hearing at which Esparza
testified and exhibits were introduced, the trial court denied
the plea to the jurisdiction on September 13, 2018. ECISD
filed this interlocutory appeal. See Tex. Civ. Prac.
& Rem. Code Ann. § 51.104(a)(8).
Plea to the Jurisdiction
argues that the trial court erred because Esparza's
filing with TWC was untimely. It argues that her filing
occurred more than 180 days after June 22, 2016, the day
Esparza was told she would be fired and thus did not invoke
the trial court's jurisdiction.
Standard of Review and Applicable Law
units, including school districts, are immune from suit
unless the state consents. Texas Dep't of Parks &
Wildlife v. Miranda, 133 S.W.3d 217, 224 (Tex. 2004).
The Legislature mandates that all statutory prerequisites to
suit are jurisdictional in suits against governmental
entities. See Tex. Gov't Code Ann. §
311.034; Prairie View A & M Univ. v. Chatha, 381
S.W.3d 500, 514 (Tex. 2012). Here, it is undisputed that
compliance with section 21.202 of the labor code is
mandatory. See Tex. Lab. Code Ann. §
21.202; Chatha, 381 S.W.3d at 514. Failure to comply
with the time limit is a jurisdictional bar to suit.
Chatha, 381 S.W.3d at 514; Univ. of Tex.-Pan Am.
v. De Los Santos; 997 S.W.2d 817, 821 (Tex. App.-Corpus
Christi-Edinburg 1999, no pet.); see also McAllen Indep.
Sch. Dist. v. Espinosa, No. 13-11-00563-CV, 2012 WL
3012657, at *6 (Tex. App.-Corpus Christi-Edinburg Jun. 15,
2012, no pet.) (mem. op.).
jurisdictional plea may challenge the pleadings, the
existence of jurisdictional facts, or both. When a
jurisdictional plea challenges the pleadings, we determine if
the plaintiff has alleged facts affirmatively demonstrating
subject-matter jurisdiction." Alamo Heights Indep.
Sch. Dist. v. Clark, 544 S.W.3d 755, 770 (Tex. 2018);
Miranda, 133 S.W.3d at 227-28. If the plea
challenges the existence of jurisdictional facts, we must
consider evidence when necessary to resolve the
jurisdictional issue. Clark, 544 S.W.3d at
770. If we consider evidence relating to the plea to
the jurisdiction, a plaintiff must raise "at least a
genuine issue of material fact." Id. at 771.
"[W]e must take as true all evidence favorable to the
plaintiff, indulging every reasonable inference and resolving
any doubts in the plaintiff's favor." Id.; see
also McAllen Indep. Sch. Dist.; 2012 WL 3012657, at *6.
But "we cannot disregard evidence necessary to show
context, and we cannot disregard evidence and inferences
unfavorable to the plaintiff if reasonable jurors could
not." Clark, 544 S.W.3d at 770; see also
McAllen Indep. Sch. Dist.; 2012 WL 3012657, at *6. Once
a defendant challenges the plaintiff's case with
evidence, as here, "the jurisdictional inquiry focuses
on the evidence and whether the plaintiff can create a fact
issue." Id. at 785. If the evidence raises a
fact issue, the trial court cannot grant the plea to the
jurisdiction. Miranda, 133 S.W.3d at 228.
Accrual of Claim ...