by Michael Fox
Plaintiff argued he should be entitled to a partial summary judgment for liability on his discrimination claim because he prevailed on his unemployment claim when the Texas Workforce Commission did not find he was terminated for misconduct. The Court of Appeals rejected the argument with short shrift:
The issue decided by the TWC did not, however, in any way address discrimination. Therefore, Piazza’s argument concerning “doctrine preclusion” is without merit.
Nothing wrong with the result on this point, or on the case as a whole, which affirmed summary judgment for the employer on plaintiff's discrimination claim. However, this is one of those times in which you wished the Court had said a little more, just to make sure that anyone reading the opinion didn't get the idea that if the TWC unemployment decision had "addressed discrimination" it could have had preclusive effect. That idea, which would of course raise the importance of TWC unemployment proceedings to a whole different level, is precluded by the Texas Labor Code:
§ 213.007. COLLATERAL ESTOPPEL DOCTRINE INAPPLICABLE. A finding of fact, conclusion of law, judgment, or final order made under this subtitle [unemployment proceedings] is not binding and may not be used as evidence in an action or proceeding, other than an action or proceeding brought under this subtitle, even if the action or proceeding is between the same or related parties or involves the same facts.
So before anyone gets too excited that this decision might open a door to the use of TWC decisions, check the statute.