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Employment discrimination continues to be a serious problem in the workplace.  Discrimination occurs when an employee is treated differently than similar employees.

Employment Laws Prohibit Most forms of Discrimination

The first anti-discrimination law was the Civil Rights Act of 1866.  This law was written to protect Blacks from workplace and business discrimination.  Unfortunately, the law was not enforced. 

Discrimination against Blacks and other minorities remained rampant until the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 60s.  This movement resulted in the Civil Rights Act of 1964.  The Civil Rights Act contains a provision, Title VII, that prohibits employment discrimination based on race, gender, national origin, and religion.

Congress continued to expand workplace discrimination law.  We now have laws protecting workers from discrimination based on age, pregnancy, disability, and genetic information.  Recently, the EEOC and several courts have held that laws prohibiting gender discrimination also prohibiting discrimination based on gender stereotypes, gender identity, and sexual orientation.

If you are experiencing discrimination in the workplace, you should not hesitate to contact us.

Harassment is Illegal Discrimination

Employment discrimination laws are not limited to tangible employment actions like failure to hire, being passed over for promotion, or being fired.  Discrimination law also prohibits harassment.

In order for harassment to be illegal, two factors must be met.  First, the harassment must be because of a protected class, like racial harassment or sexual harassment.  Second, the harassment must be severe or pervasive.  When harassment is severe or pervasive it is called a hostile work environment.

An employee being harassed should not hesitate to contact a qualified employment lawyer.  In fact, where harassment is involved, the earlier the better.

One common mistake employees make is to resign when being harassed.  If an employee resigns, there is a strong presumption in the law that the employee caused the separation.  This may jeopardize the ability to bring a lawsuit, as well as prevent the employee from getting unemployment benefits.  Before you resign you should speak with an attorney to make sure you know all of your options.

Retaliation is Illegal

Retaliation is a huge issue in employment discrimination law.  Many employees are scared of complaining to human resources because they fear retaliation, and rightfully so. 

Virtually every employment discrimination law also contains a provision prohibiting retaliation.  This includes retaliation for making an internal complaint, complaining to a government agency like the EEOC, or assisting another employee in opposing discrimination. 

In my experience, employment retaliation claims are some of the strongest claims.  Retaliation claims are often straightforward and can be supported by the timing of events.  For example, an employee with no disciplinary history who complains to human resources and is fired shortly thereafter has a fairly believable case of unlawful retaliation.  Additionally, almost all jurors, regardless of background, gender, or ethnicity, can relate to the fear of retaliation in the workplace.

Requirements for an Employment Discrimination Case

One requirement of an employment discrimination case is timeliness.  Generally, an employee must take action with 180 for Texas state law claims and 300 days for federal law claims.  Some courts hold that the deadline starts to run when an employee knew (or should have known) of the adverse action.  This is a very short time to take action and is one reason for hiring an employment lawyer sooner rather than later.  One exception is race, where the federal statute of limitations may be as long as four years.

Another requirement of an employment discrimination is that the company being sued have 15 or more employees.  This is true for almost all employment discrimination cases.  One exception is race, where there is no minimum number of employee, and age, where federal claims require 20 or more employees.

Finally, the laws concerning discrimination may be different depending on if the employer is a government entity or a private entity.  Generally, government employees may have additional rights.  Employees of the government do not lose the rights they have as citizens (including equal protection and due process) simply because they are employees.  Federal employees typically have the most rights, with special EEO and Merit System Protection Board (MSPB) rights if they are fired.

If you believe you are a victim of discrimination or retaliation, please contact my law firm to schedule an initial consultation.

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