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Safeguarding Your Rights In The Workplace

Terrence Bouvier Robinson

Texas and federal laws address discrimination in the workplace

Workplace discrimination is illegal in Texas. The Texas Workforce Commission Civil Rights Division and the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission work to ensure that employees in this state can do their jobs without harassment or discrimination based on any protected status.

There are specific facts that workers must consider if they believe they've been discriminated against.

Definition of a protected status

A protected status is one that is specifically listed in the applicable laws. These currently cover things like gender, age for workers over 40 years old, disabilities, religious beliefs, race and national origin. Discrimination for any of these is outlawed.

You can find the specific protected statuses in federal and state labor laws. Sometimes, local labor laws also cover them. The Pregnancy Discrimination Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the Civil Rights Act of 1964 provide federal protection. The Texas Labor Code, specifically Chapter 21, as well as the Texas Commission on Human Rights Act, provide the state-level protections.

Timeframe for protections

Protections for workers don't only cover people who are hired to work at a company. They extend to those who are applying to work for an employer. From the hiring process through the termination process, there can't be any type of discriminatory behavior.

There are many things considered to be discrimination in the workforce. These are all illegal when they are based on any protected status. Here are a few:

  • Cutting hours, demotions, pay cuts and termination
  • Failing to hire someone
  • Making off-color comments or remarks

These can come from anyone with whom the employee comes into contact during a workday, including other employees, supervisors, owners, customers or vendors. For this reason, all businesses should have specific anti-discrimination rules in place to protect workers.

Special protections exist in Houston

On top of the standard protections offered by the state and federal governments, the city of Houston has extra protections for its city workers. The city doesn't allow their employees to have to deal with discrimination due to their gender identity or sexual orientation.

Employees who are victims of discrimination can file complaints with the proper commissions. These will investigate the claims and provide more information. Other legal actions might be possible after this. While employees might worry about retaliation due to filing a complaint, employers can't lawfully do this. Retaliation is strictly forbidden.

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