February 21st

You may have seen 
an article in the paper over the weekend about a man being let go from his job due to his religious beliefs.  It’s important to know that you have the absolute right to a “discrimination free” work place and that there are laws that protect you from wrongful termination. All government agencies and municipalities are covered under both Texas laws and federal laws that prohibit employment discrimination. All private employers that employ at least 15 to 20 employees are covered under Texas and federal anti-discrimination laws. These laws are there to protect you from discrimination based on race, color, sex, religion, national origin, age and disability. In addition, each statute prohibits retaliation by the employer against you for filing a complaint or participating in an investigation of someone else’s complaint.

There are also many state laws that protect you from other types of retaliation – retaliation from filing a workers’ comp claim; retaliation from filing a report of neglect or abuse if you are a child care worker; retaliation from reporting neglect or abuse if you work for a nursing home or mental health facility, and retaliation from "whistle blowing" if you are a government employee. The law also protects you if you’re fired for refusing to commit an illegal or criminal act at work. There are many laws that protect you at work when you are unlawfully terminated, suspended, demoted, reprimanded or harassed.

Now, for those employees who work for an employer who is covered under state and federal employment discrimination statutes, what do you do if you feel you are the victim of discrimination at work? TELL SOMEBODY!!! Let me say that again-TELL SOMEBODY! Most employers have a human resources department, personnel department, or someone who is designated to receive and investigate complaints of workplace-related discrimination. Most employers have an employee guide with an anti-discrimination policy or guideline which tells you how to file a complaint and to whom you should file your complaint. If your employer has such a policy, please follow the policy as closely as possible to preserve your rights and your complaint. However, some employers do not have an anti-discrimination policy or a human resources/ personnel department; and many times the person who is alleged to have perpetrated the discriminatory acts is a manager or supervisor. So who do you tell? If there is no human resources person, complain to your manager’s boss, and always do it in writing with a copy for yourself. That is the first step. Many people do not take this first step because they are afraid of retaliation, or losing their jobs. These are real concerns; however, in order to protect yourself from further discrimination and abuse on the job, you must take that first step. The next step is to allow your employer to conduct an investigation into your allegations. If the investigation is negative, or you don’t believe the investigation was adequate, or there was no investigation, then you may want to take further action.

The most important thing to remember if you feel you have been discriminated against is to preserve your rights under the law – report it to someone within the company; then if you don’t feel you have gotten a satisfactory result, seek legal council.

Jeff Davis

Attorney at Law