Porter v. Houma Terrebonne Housing Authority Bd. Of Com’rs, 810 F.3d 940 (5th Cir. 2015).

Facts:  Tyrikia Porter worked for the Houma Terrebonne Housing Authority, and had been promoted several times to a supervisory role.  The housing authority hired a new executive director in 2006.  Within a year of his hiring, his behavior was making Porter uncomfortable.  It was alleged that he often commented on her appearance and asked her out to lunch or to travel out of town, among other things.  Although she reported some of the man’s behavior to her immediate supervisor, Porter never filed a formal grievance.  Porter eventually tendered her resignation, but it would not take effect until about two months later.  Prior to the effective date of her resignation, Porter testified about the executive director’s inappropriate behavior at a grievance hearing.  At the urging of her supervisor and others, Porter attempted to rescind her resignation.  However, the executive director denied the request and Porter was not allowed to return to work.  Porter filed a charge of discrimination, and later sued the housing authority claiming sexual harassment and retaliation.  The trial court entered judgment in favor of the housing authority on each of the claims and Porter appealed; but she appealed only the dismissal of the retaliation claim.

Ruling:  The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the judgment rendered in favor of the housing authority.  The housing authority argued that Porter had submitted her resignation prior to testifying at the grievance hearing and, therefore, she did not suffer an adverse employment action.  The appeals court disagreed and stated that “circumstances suggest that a reasonable employee in Porter’s shoes might have legitimately expected that her rescission of resignation would be accepted,” and that the man’s failure to rescind her resignation would have dissuaded her to testify at the grievance hearing.  Thus, Porter suffered an adverse employment action.

The housing authority also argued that Porter was not terminated in retaliation for testifying at a grievance hearing, but because she was not happy working there and often threatened to quit.  According to the appeals court, however, Porter had presented sufficient evidence to raise a fact issue on whether retaliation was the real motivation for not allowing her to rescind her resignation.  Included in this evidence was the fact that less than seven weeks elapsed between Porter’s testimony and the denial of her rescission.  Because Porter presented enough evidence to create a genuine issue of fact on her retaliation claim, the appeals court reversed the lower court decision that dismissed the suit.

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