What Are The Laws on Discrimination at Work?

Texas Workplace Discrimination can occur in several different ways. Each way, be it discrimination of age disability or gender, has different markers and different markers for identifying when it occurs. Regardless of how it happens, all forms of discrimination are illegal in the workplace. However, age, gender and disability discrimination aren't the only forms of discrimination. We'll go through the most common forms of discrimination on this page.

Table of Contents

While the following page is by no means comprehensive of all types of discrimination, the following items are among the most common forms of workplace discrimination in Texas. We’ll point them out and identify what needs to happen for you to have a claim of the relevant type of discrimination. As a general rule of thumb, remember that no single incident (generally speaking) is proof of systematic discrimination which is why it’s always a good idea to keep track of everything your employer tells you to do especially if you are suspicious.

Age Discrimination

Age discrimination is when someone, aged 40 or older, is fired solely because of their age. Obviously, proving such a measure is difficult but if any of the following criteria are violated you may have grounds for filing suit against your employer.

The Criteria: if your employer exhibits a pattern of discrimination against older employees including being passed on for new projects or allocating new job training to younger employees with the same experience or if there is a systematic attempt to remove older employees and replace them with younger employees (specifically if a clear trend emerges).

However, given that these criteria can be hard to prove in court there are also technical requirements that employers must fulfill to be in legal compliance. Among them is providing age-related data during a workforce reduction period. This checks and balances system is put in place so that employers (and their attorneys) can see whether a systematic layoff of older employees is taking place. Read our full page on this to learn more about Age Discrimination Laws in Texas.

Disability Discrimination

As discrimination is a matter of Civil Rights, any instance of discrimination is covered under federal law. The 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act (referred to as ADA) finally brought protections to employees suffering from disabilities. However, the original act omitted several diseases that were debilitating in every sense of the word. In the eyes of the law, people with intellectual disabilities to HIV/AIDS to even cancer were not protected under the disability act.

Eighteen years after the Acts passage, major amendments were finally proposed and passed in 2008. This amendment essentially changed the focus of the law to look for validation of disability claims instead of determining whether the person has been discriminated against.

When It Is Disability Discrimination: if your employee does not let you perform a certain job because they believe your disability will prevent you from fulfilling that job (even though it won’t), the employer will not accommodate your disability, you disclosed your disability to your employer and they immediately began treating you unfairly because of this information. Read more about workplace discrimination laws for those with disabilities.

Gender Discrimination

An issue that’s seen more intense focus in recent years is reminiscent of third-wave feminism. Current federal laws have yet to alter definitions of gender to include protections specifically for those that identify as non-binary. As this is an issue many, on both sides of the political spectrum have struggled with, we’ll take the time to define gender. Gender is not to be confused with Sex. Whereas gender refers to the interests, behaviors, and preferences of someone, sex is purely biological. We’ll discuss this in a full-length article but in the meantime, let’s drill down on what constitutes gender discrimination in the workplace.

There are quite a bit of relevant federal and Texas state laws that cover different aspects of gender discrimination in the workplace. Among them is The Equal Pay Act and the Pregnancy Discrimination Act. Fundamental to identifying gender discrimination is the question of whether someone got preferential treatment because they are male (or female) or creating an atmosphere (workplace environment) that allows for sexual harassment (itself a standalone crime).

Remember that even though we tend to associate workplace discrimination with women as the victim, the discrimination can work both ways. As the EEOC website states, the “harasser may be any sex, and the victim and harasser may be the same sex or a different sex.”

Pregnancy Discrimination

Pregnancy discrimination, not to be confused with discrimination over maternity leave or nursing mothers, is a perenially hot-button topic across the country. Anyone who has seen Knocked Up knows that women, particularly women in certain positions, may endure tremendous anxiety when confronted with the question of whether they should notify their employer that they are pregnant. Luckily, federal law provides a standard that protects pregnant women from workplace discrimination. Note that pregnancy discrimination laws only apply to companies with 15 or more employees.

Not only are employers prevented from treating pregnant women differently than other employees, but the law is also rare in that it prevents discrimination before one is even an employee. Pregnant women are not allowed to be discriminated against in the hiring process. While internal documents related to hiring and firing may be sparse and difficult to access for prospective employers note that larger companies, who have multiple levels to the hiring process, are subject to frequent whistleblowers.

Additionally, if you are pregnant your workplace is required to provide you with reasonable accommodations during your pregnancy. This accommodation includes time off for doctor’s appointments and having certain responsibilities (that might be dangerous for mother or child) waived by the employer.

Race Discrimination

Since this particular species of primate has existed (humans), race discrimination has been a reoccurring theme. However only with the Civil Rights Act of 1964 did the, at least pretense of, equality in the workplace become a thing in America. It is now, finally, illegal for employers to discriminate based on one’s race.

Fun fact: race is actually not a real concept as it applies to humans. Race, in the biological sense, is when a subset of a species is increasingly isolated from its sub-species. If things ‘continue as they are’ then ultimately they will be unable to reproduce with the original species and become their own species. Obviously, this has nothing to do with how ‘Race’ is used colloquially.

While identifying race-based discrimination may be easy, proving it can be quite difficult. Though distasteful, the periodic “jab” by an employer with racial undertones might not be sufficient for a claim of racial discrimination, a sufficiently aggressive single act may be enough. If you believe you’ve been the subject of racial discrimination at the workplace, make sure to keep track of anything done or said that is even remotely racially insensitive.

Religious Discrimination

Religious discrimination is also illegal in the workplace and, in Texas, the law’s implementation is among the most controversial. Texas state law deals with this directly in Sec. 21.109 of the Texas Labor Code under the subsection titled “Discrimination Based on Religion.”

We’ll quote the official language below but note this does not apply to people who work for a religious organization. Such organizations have separate legal guidelines that insulate them from legal liability.

A provision in this chapter referring to discrimination because of religion or on the basis of religion applies to discrimination because of or on the basis of any aspect of religious observance, practice, or belief, unless an employer demonstrates that the employer is unable reasonably to accommodate the religious observance or practice of an employee or applicant without undue hardship to the conduct of the employer’s business.

Sec. 21.108. DISCRIMINATION BASED ON RELIGION

Discrimination Against National Origin

Another statute covered by the Texas labor code is that of discrimination based on national origin, or what country an employee is from. While other states may have little need for such a statue Texas, with its combination of having a shared border with Mexico and among the most patriotic states in the Union, has frequent need to utilize such a statue. The problem, like other forms of discrimination listed above, is that one needs to prove to the satisfaction of a jury that one was terminated, not hired, or otherwise discriminated against by their (current or potential) employer because of their country of origin.