When can I sue for employment discrimination? Fort Worth labor lawyer explains

Texas and federal discrimination law prohibit only certain types of employment discrimination. An employee may file a charge of discrimination or lawsuit on employment discrimination only for a trait protected by law. If your employer takes action against your job or compensation then you must show the employer did so because you have a protected trait. The traits protected under federal and Texas law include race, ethnicity, national origin, disability, sex, gender, religion and age.

The law also protects certain employee acts from employment discrimination. These include reporting discrimination internally or externally, participating in an investigation of discrimination, filing a wage claim for unpaid wages, participating as a member of the armed forces, exercising FMLA rights and participating in a union. A small number of Texas cities have prohibited discrimination against employees who are transgendered and sexual orientation. However, if the law has not prohibited your employer from taking negative action against your job, what is often called an “adverse employment action”, then your employer is typically free to take action on whatever basis it wishes. Even if it treats you differently for a reason completely unrelated to your job performance.

Employment discrimination in Dallas and Fort Worth, Texas

This is an important point often overlooked by people who have been mistreated in their jobs. As judges frequently point out, anti-discrimination laws are not a civility code that requires employers to be nice. Supervisors and coworkers are generally free to behave rudely, set unrealistic performance requirements, underpay for the value of work. So long as it does not violate one of the limited employment laws under federal and Texas law.

I often receive calls and emails from people fired and believe they suffered discrimination and wrongful termination. I often agree that mistreatment took place; but when we speak of “discrimination” and “wrongful termination” these terms have specific legal meaning. You may have suffered discriminated against because you don’t like football or some other basis the law does not protect; but if the law does not protect that status there is no legal remedy under discrimination law. You may have a valid claim for unemployment benefits and you may have other claims under different employment laws.

Adverse employment actions in discrimination in Texas

If you have suffered an adverse employment action and you believe it is due to a protected trait or the exercise of a protected employment right, you must show that the employer acted on the basis of that prohibited reason. You cannot prevail on a discrimination claim in Texas merely by proving you have a protected trait or exercised a protected right because your employer took an adverse employment action against you. For example, if you are a man fired for performance issues, it is not enough that a woman also does your job and she kept her job. You must show the employer fired you because of sex and the performance issues were not the real reason. The performance issues may be real and the woman may not have performance problems.

However, it would be sex discrimination if both employees had performance issues but only the man lost his job. Suffering an adverse action is not the only way an employee can suffer employment discrimination. Employees also suffer prohibited discrimination through workplace harassment, inappropriate refusal to provide a reasonable accommodation to a disability or religious practice, retaliation for complaining about illegal employment conduct or exercising a protected right.

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