Discrimination, Harassment, And Retaliation
In The Workplace
For general information about employment discrimination laws, please see below:
- What Laws Prohibit Employment Discrimination And Harassment?
- What Employers Are Covered?
- What Agencies Enforce Employment Discrimination Laws?
- What Statutes Of Limitation Apply?
- What is the Texas Workers' Compensation Act?
- What Whistleblower Protections Exist In Texas?
I. What Laws Prohibit Discrimination And Harassment?
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII)
Workplace harassment is also prohibited by Title VII.
Sexual harassment may include:
- Direct requests for sexual favors;
- Inappropriate touching;
- Overtly sexual comments or comments about a person's physical appearance;
- Repeated requests for dates and not taking "no" for an answer.
- Patronizing behavior not used with other colleagues;
- Posting inappropriate photos or jokes;
- Other actions which create a hostile workplace for persons of either gender.
Racial or ethnic harassment may include:
- Racial slurs and derogatory remarks;
- Encouraging others to behave in a racist way;
- Making stereotypical assumptions about workers because of their race;
- Offensive jokes or comments;
- Other degrading treatment.
Religious harassment may include:
- Antagonizing or ridiculing an employee because of their religious beliefs;
- Preaching to an employee in an unwanted and offensive way;
- Scheduling examinations or other selection activities in conflict with a current or prospective employee's religious needs;
- Maintaining a restrictive dress code;
- Refusing to allow observance of a Sabbath or religious holiday.
The Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA)
Employers may violate the act by:
- Refusing to hire a woman because of her pregnancy or assumptions about pregnant workers;
- Treating the pregnant employee differently from other temporarily disabled employees - for example, by not providing modified tasks, alternative assignments, disability leave or leave without pay;
- Forcing a pregnant employee to leave work when she can still perform their job;
- Requiring a pregnant employee to remain on leave until after the baby's birth;
- Mandating a rule which prohibits an employee from returning to work for a predetermined length of time after childbirth;
- Refusing to hold open a job for a pregnancy related absence for the same amount of time as other disabilities.
The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA)
This federal law protects people who are 40 or older from discrimination because of age. Many employment practices can lead to suspicion of age discrimination:
- Making derogatory comments and jokes about age;
- Not hiring an older employee because of "over-qualification";
- Firing older employees and promoting younger ones to replace them;
- Re-assigning older employees to inferior positions;
- Attempting to deny or limit benefits because of age;
- Mandatory retirement based on age.
Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA)
- Making existing facilities accessible to and usable by persons with disabilities.
- Job restructuring, modifying work schedules, reassignment to a vacant position;
- Acquiring or modifying equipment or devices, adjusting examinations, training materials, or policies, and providing qualified readers or interpreters;
- Reasonable time for leave.
Texas Commission On Human Rights Act of 1983 (TCHRA)
II. What Employers Are Covered?
III. What Agencies Enforce Employment Discrimination Laws?
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is the federal agency charged with enforcing Title VII laws against discrimination.
The EEOC has the authority to investigate charges of discrimination against employers who are covered by the law. Any employee who desires to start a lawsuit against an employer for an unlawful employment practice must first exhaust his administrative remedies and file a Charge of Discrimination with the EEOC or its state equivalent. Generally, the EEOC's role is to investigate the Charge, assess whether the allegations are supported by reasonable cause, and make a finding. It also has the authority to issue subpoenas and may even choose to file a lawsuit. A civil action may only be filed in court if the EEOC has dismissed the Charge or issued a right-to-sue letter.
In Texas, the Texas Workforce Commission Civil Rights Division serves a similar role as the EEOC.
IV. What Statutes Of Limitation Apply?
Unlike many other causes of action, employment discrimination lawsuits have a short statute of limitations.
In Texas, to bring a claim in state court, a person must file a Charge of Discrimination with the Texas Workforce Commission Civil Rights Division (TWC) within 180 days after occurrence of the alleged act of unlawful employment discrimination. To bring a claim in federal court, a person must file a Charge of Discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) within 300 days after occurrence of the alleged act of unlawful employment discrimination.
V. What Is The Texas Workers' Compensation Act?
The Texas Workers' Compensation Act (TWCA) is a state law that establishes an insurance system for accidental work-related injuries. When an employee is injured in the course and scope of employment, the employer or the insurance company pays for medical care and lost wages due to the injury. The employee does not have to prove the employer was as fault, and the negligence of co-workers is not taken into account.
Who is covered?
Unlike workers' compensation laws in every other state, the TWCA allows private Texas employers to choose whether to subscribe to workers' compensation insurance. However, the TWCA encourages Texas companies to participate by abolishing several common law defenses should they choose to remain uninsured. This dramatically increases employer liability.
The Texas Legislature intended the TWCA to benefit both employers and employees: Injured employees are relieved from having to sue their employers for damages; employers substantially cut their liability for on-the-job injuries.
Discrimination, Retaliation, And Other Interference With Employees' Rights
Texas law prohibits an employer from discriminating or retaliating against an employee for filing a worker's compensation claim. This includes terminating, demoting, threatening, or creating a hostile work environment. An employee is generally protected if she engages in one of the following activities:
- Filing a workers' compensation claim in good faith or taking steps to file a claim;
- Hiring an attorney for representation in a workers' compensation claim;
- Testifying or planning to testify in a workers' compensation proceeding.
Statute of Limitations
The limitations period for an action for workers' compensation retaliation is two years.
VI. What Whistleblower Protections Exist In Texas?
In Texas, a patchwork of federal and state laws exist which offer some protection to employees who report employer wrongdoing. Some of these laws include:
- The Texas Whistleblower Protection Act - a state law that provides protection for public employees who report violations of certain laws by their employer or another public employee to an appropriate law enforcement authority.
- The Sarbanes-Oxley Act - a federal law that provides protection for private employees whose employer is publicly traded under the jurisdiction of the SEC.
- The Qui Tam Provision Of The Federal Civil False Claims Act - a federal law that allows private individuals to bring actions against federal contractors defrauding the government and protects against retaliation.