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Apache Corp. Wins Appeal of Paralegal’s Retaliation Suit

June 28, 2021, 2:15 PM

Texas’ top court reversed an award of more than $900,000 against Apache Corp., saying that a paralegal failed to show that the company wouldn’t have fired her but for an email she sent complaining of sex discrimination.

Cathryn Davis worked in the hydrocarbon exploration and production company’s Houston litigation department. Her relationship with the attorney heading the department soured. In 2012 Davis sent an email to the department head, a human resources manager, and an Apache employment lawyer alleging a hostile work environment, age discrimination, and sex discrimination.

Human resources investigated and concluded there was no evidence of discrimination. Davis was fired about eight weeks after sending the email. She alleged she was subject to unlawful retaliation, and won $150,000 in damages and over $767,000 in attorneys’ fees.

The Supreme Court of Texas on June 25 reversed, saying “there is no evidence to support the jury’s finding that but for Respondent’s complaint of gender discrimination in her email,” Apache would have terminated her when it did.

“Though Davis was terminated shortly after her email, it had still been only a short while since her insubordination in refusing to submit a work schedule” and adhere to the company’s new overtime policy, the court said.

The email itself repeated “many insubordinate accusations” and contained only a single sentence vaguely alleging that Apache had a negative attitude toward its female employees, the court added.

The opinion was written by Chief Justice Nathan L. Hecht.

Dennis G. Herlong and Scott David Newar of Houston and Spencer Fane LLP represent Davis. Vinson & Elkins LLP represents Apache.

The case is Apache Corp. v. Davis, Tex., No. 19-0410, 6/25/21.

To contact the reporter on this story: Brian Flood in Washington at bflood@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Rob Tricchinelli at rtricchinelli@bloomberglaw.com; Patrick L. Gregory at pgregory@bloomberglaw.com

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