Can I file an FMLA lawsuit in Texas state courts?
Yes, under section 107 of the Family Medical Leave Act, a covered employee may file suit in a federal or state court with competent jurisdiction to hear the FMLA claims. That means an employee with FMLA claims can certainly file those FMLA claims in Texas state courts. Rules governing which Texas state courts have jurisdiction to hear FMLA claims lies, generally, within the Texas Government Code. FMLA claims filed in Texas courts will go to county or district courts based on limits on damages in each type of court.
In addition to the damage limitations, a plaintiff filing FMLA claims must file in a court that has jurisdiction over general civil claims. That court must be an appropriate venue for the plaintiff’s claims. That means the plaintiff’s claims can only be brought in certain county or district courts. These issues are also addressed within the Texas Government Code.
FMLA lawsuits in Dallas and Fort Worth federal courts
Plaintiffs should know that in almost all cases defendant-employers will remove the case from state courts to federal courts. Under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and Title 28 of the United States Code, a defendant can remove a lawsuit to federal court when it involves a question of federal law, such as FMLA. The reason is simple: defendants obtain a tactical advantage in federal courts. They have greater probability of success in federal courts.
However, plaintiffs have no discretion whether a defendant removes to federal court. Only an unlikely defect in the removal filings will defeat the defendant’s attempt to remove the case to federal court. So a plaintiff with FMLA claims must expect the case will be removed to federal court.
Texas FMLA lawsuits
Does that mean a plaintiff should go ahead and file in federal court? Not necessarily. It is often cheaper to file suit in a Texas court and serve the defendant than it is to file in federal court (even if you may be able to avoid paying for serving the defendant in federal court). You also do not know for certain that the defendant will remove so there is no reason to help the defendant out by starting in federal court.
Perhaps most useful to the plaintiff is if the defendant fails to file or remove within the appropriate time frame under the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure, you can obtain a default judgment against the defendant. It will at very least trap the defendant in state court for as long as you can hold the default. A Texas state court judge may be more willing to grant the default than a federal judge. Appealing the default will keep the defendant in the more plaintiff-favorable state courts.
Dallas and Fort Worth, Texas employment lawyers for FMLA claims
Keep in mind that these issues are technical. What is true for one lawsuit may not be the best course of action for the next. FMLA litigation in general is technical and often turns on legal, rather than factual, issues. Your best option is to discuss your potential FMLA claims with a Texas employment lawyer.