Spotting Illegal Discrimination / Wrongful Termination

Many people believe that an employer is prevented from terminating an employee if they have done nothing wrong, or that an employer cannot abuse its employees without there being some legal recourse; however, in most case those persons are wrong.  The State of Texas is considered an “at-will” state, which essentially means an employer can terminate any person that it wants, just like an employee can quit any time he or she wants, as long as there was no illegal action or some contractual relationship.  In addition, an employer can abuse its employees in many ways, as long as (a) that abuse does not rise to the level of assault or intentional infliction of emotional distress, or (b) the abuse is not motivated by illegal factors (i.e. race, religion, etc. . . ). 

However, the laws of the State of Texas and the United States do protect employees from illegal discrimination and harassment -- but not every unfair act committed by an employer is considered a violation of these laws.  In most cases, an employer can only be held liable for a violation of the discrimination laws if it treats an employee or applicant differently based on his or her race, color, religion, national origin, gender, age, disability, and, in some Texas cities, sexual orientation.  In addition, only significant employment decisions are considered to be a violation of these laws, such as decision involving hiring, promoting, compensating, or terminating.

But how does a person know whether he or she has been illegally discriminated against?  One of the easiest ways is if the person making the employment decision says something that immediately suggests that an illegal factor entered into the decision-making process (i.e. “We were looking for someone younger” or “A woman should not be working in a job like this”).  However, in most cases illegal discrimination is much harder to spot.  Because of this difficulty, it is important to pay attention to many of the same clues that the courts look at when trying to determine whether illegal discrimination entered into an employment decision.  Some of those clues are as follows:

These clues are not always easy to find, and sometimes require the filing of a lawsuit to root out.  In addition, legitimate business decisions can sometimes appear to be discriminatory, when they in fact are not.  

If you have a dispute relating to this workplace issue and you believe the situation would best be resolved through mediatoion, please contact us by email. We look forward to the opportunity to serve you.

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