Discrimination in the Texas Workplace

Getting a job is tough, keeping one even tougher in these economic times. Layoffs are more prevalent, but they need to be for the right reasons.

Just about every business in Texas has been forced to lay off people in order to downsize and keep their company open. In some instances however, the business has been shut down entirely. Being laid off may have already happened to you, or you know someone – perhaps even a family member – who has lost their livelihood.

Generally speaking, in most instances the employers will be making fair and equitable choices about layoffs. We have to believe that or it would mean there are a portion of the employers out there that choose the wrong people for the wrong reasons when it comes to downsizing. Those wrong reasons may ultimately amount to discrimination.

Unfortunately, there are some employers who fall into the category of unfair employers and who do lay off people based on things like retaliation, illegal cost cutting moves and prejudice. No, prejudice is definitely not dead. If you think you may have been a victim of discrimination in the workplace, or think that you have been wrongly fired, it’s vital that you talk to an employment law attorney as soon as possible.

If you do happen to live in the state of Texas, you really need to be aware of the fact that employment laws there do not do workers any favors. What this means is that Texas functions under something called “at will” employment. This means that you work for an employer at “their” pleasure and they can fire you anytime and not have to give you a reason why.

Don’t despair though, as the Texas Labor Code and the Civil Rights Act lay out certain circumstances that are considered to be discrimination against an employee. In other words, you can’t be let go because of your age, sex, national origin, color or race. The age qualification does have some exceptions which you would need to discuss with your attorney. You cannot be fired for a disability that is covered under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

If you ask your employer for unpaid leave, as you are allowed to do under the auspices of the FMLA, you can’t be fired for doing so. Neither should you be subjected to being unemployed if you reported fraud, safety violations or environmental concerns in the workplace. There are a couple of other reasons for which you can’t be booted to the curb either, and those include the fact that your employment contract specifically lays out that only certain reasons may get you fired and if you balk at doing something illegal on behalf of your boss.

Interestingly enough, employment discrimination is on the rise in Texas (and nationally), most likely due to the tough economy. It may shock you to know that the Texas EEOC checked out 13,000 more complaints last year than in 2007. These investigations actually resulted in 95,402 charges being laid against employers. So obviously there is hope for those who wish to file a complaint.

Having a skilled employment lawyer on your side representing you is a very smart move and will ensure you get ultimately get a fair shake in terms of a settlement.

Seth Wilburn writes for the The Gomez Firm, a Dallas employment lawyer and Dallas business lawyer. To learn more, visit Gomezlawyers.com.