Nine female detention service officers, employed by the Dallas County Sheriff’s Department, filed a lawsuit in federal court alleging changes to the policy for scheduling days off constituted sex discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Texas Employment Discrimination Act.
Prior to April 2019, the Dallas County Sheriff’s Department provided two days off each week to its employees, with scheduling requests to be prioritized by seniority. In April 2019, this policy was changed to allow only male employees to schedule their two days off on the weekend. Female employees were not given full weekends off and were required to either schedule their two days off on weekdays or take only one day off during the weekend.
On February 10, 2020, nine female detention service officers filed suit in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Texas alleging these changes constituted sex discrimination under federal and state law, including Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, which forbids employers from taking adverse employment actions against workers on the basis of sex.
In response, on June 4, 2020, the defendant filed a motion to dismiss, arguing the scheduling policy change was not discrimination under Title VII. The District Court granted the defendant’s motion to dismiss the case, and the plaintiffs appealed to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.
On May 21, 2022, the League of Women Voters of the United States and allied civil rights and public interest organizations joined an amicus brief led by the National Women’s Law Center.
A three-judge panel of the Fifth Circuit upheld the District Court’s ruling on August 3, 2022, stating that under previous Fifth Circuit precedent, the schedule change was not an adverse employment action because it was not an “ultimate employment decision” like hiring, granting leave, or terminating employment. Therefore, the scheduling change was not a Title VII violation.
In response, the plaintiffs petitioned for a rehearing by all sitting judges of the Circuit Court, or en banc review, on August 16, 2022. The plaintiffs argued the panel’s decision effectively authorized discrimination banned by Title VII and Texas state law. The court granted the petition and conducted an en banc hearing on January 24, 2023.
The League was represented in this matter by the National Women’s Law Center, Katz, Marshall, and Banks, LLP, the American Civil Liberties Union Foundation, and the American Civil Liberties Union Foundation of Texas.
Plaintiffs file complaint
Nine female detention service officers file suit in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Texas alleging changes to the policy for scheduling days off constitute sex discrimination under federal and state law.
District court grants defendant’s motion to dismiss
The district court grants the defendant’s motion to dismiss, on the grounds the plaintiffs failed to bring a valid claim, as the change in scheduling policy did not constitute an adverse employment action under Fifth Circuit precedent.
Plaintiffs appeal to Fifth Circuit
LWVUS and co-amici file amicus brief
The League of Women Voters of the United States, together with dozens of other civil rights and public interest organizations, joins an amicus brief by the National Women's Law Center calling on the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals to reverse the District Court's decision. The brief argues the plaintiffs were victims of discrimination on the basis of sex and asserted they could sue under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, even if their job duties, compensation and benefits were not directly affected by the scheduling policy. The brief also cites the negative effects of the policy on care givers, particularly for those who were women of color.
Fifth Circuit holds oral argument
Fifth Circuit upholds lower court’s ruling
A three-judge panel of the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals upholds the District Court’s grant of the defendant’s request to dismiss the case, finding the court correctly applied the Circuit’s precedents.
Plaintiffs request en banc review
The plaintiffs petition for a rehearing by all sitting judges on the Circuit Court, or en banc review, arguing the panel’s decision effectively authorized discrimination by state and federal law. The petition also requests the court to reconsider its precedents defining adverse employment actions.
Fifth Circuit hears appeal en banc
Fifth Circuit reverses district court dismissal
The circuit court of appeals reverses the district court's dismissal of the case, overturning its previous precedent on the definition of an adverse employment action under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. The court finds plaintiffs stated a plausible disparate treatment claim under Title VII and remands the case to the district court for further proceedings.