De Minimis Discrimination

Plaintiff Shabaz Din was born in Pakistan, where he became a doctor and specialized in ophthalmology. After emigrating to the United States in the 1990s, Din took a job training medical assistants with ATI Career Training Center. When the position of Medical Assistants Program Director came open, Din applied for it. ATI chose to go with a doctor of osteopathy instead. That doctor was soon replaced by a different candidate with only a vocational degree, followed by yet another new hire who had not graudated from college. Din filed a complaint with the EEOC, and ATI fired him shortly thereafter. Din sued for national origin discrimination and retaliation, and the jury awarded him damages for back pay, emotional pain and suffering, and punitives.

The Court of Appeals took up several issues in its determination of the case. First, it dismissed Din’s cause of action for retaliation because he had not raised that issue in the underlying administrative proceeding as required by Chapter 21 of the Texas Labor Code (formerly, the Texas Commission on Human Rights Act). As to the damages, the Court held that there was no evidence that Din had suffered any compensible emotional pain and suffering due to the failure to promote, and it therefore vacated that portion of the judgment. The Court did find that there was evidence of back-pay damages, but nowhere near enough to sustain the jury’s award of $83,000, leading to a remand for additional proceedings on both liability and damages for the back-pay issue. Finally, the Court of Appeals reviewed the evidence supporting the jury’s finding of malice or reckless indifference and found it was legally insufficient to support an award of punitive damages. Although there was evidence that the ATI manager had intended to cause Dim “some harm” in denying his promotion, that evidence did not show an intent to cause “substantial injury or harm” because the promotion would have resulted in only a small raise in Dim’s hourly salary.

ATI Enters., Inc. v. Din, No. 05-11-01522-CV

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