Austin Indep. Sch. Dist. v. Lowery

In Austin Indep. Sch. Dist. v. Lowery, 212 S.W.3d 827 (Tex. App.--Austin 2006, pet. denied), the plaintiff was a bus driver hired by the district who disclosed on her job application that she suffered from an anxiety disorder. 212 S.W.3d at 829. After being forced to resign, she sued the district for disability discrimination under the Texas Commission on Human Rights Act (CHRA). Id. The school district argued she failed to exhaust her administrative remedies under the Education Code, and she responded she was not required to do so when asserting a claim under the CHRA. Id. at 830. The Court concluded that Lowery "did not suggest that she had been aggrieved by a school law of this state," and failed to identify any provision of the Education Code addressing discrimination or permitting school districts to adopt their own workplace discrimination rules. Id. at 831. The court concluded Lowery's employment discrimination claim did not concern "the administration of school laws" and was not subject to an exhaustion requirement under the Education Code. Id. at 832. The Austin Court of Appeals elaborated on why an exclusive, comprehensive legislative scheme is more appropriate to address discrimination and retaliation claims. Id. at 832-33. The court explained: "Workplace discrimination is not an issue that can be addressed effectively at the local level. The Act and the corresponding federal laws reflect our legislators' recognition of the fact that what constitutes discrimination and the remedies available to protect a party from discrimination should not be left to the varying attitudes of a local community in Texas or in any other state. Because preventing workplace discrimination is not a uniquely local concern, the general policy favoring local resolution does not apply . . . Just as a local school district law promoting or favoring discrimination would not trump state and federal laws prohibiting such behavior, a school district's local grievance procedures cannot trump the administrative remedies chosen in the Act." Id.