Many people wrongly believe that they have a legal recourse if an employer terminates or disciplines an employee if that employee has done something wrong, or an employer treats an employee harshly or unfairly. However, 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 the employer’s actions do not violate very specific federal or state laws-or there is some kind of contractual relationship-there is no recourse for am employee that is mistreated. In addition, an employer that abused its employees cannot be held liable unless that abuse rised to the level of assault or intentional infliction of emotional distress, or the abuse is motivated by illegal factors (i.e. race, religion, gender, disability, etc. . . ).
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, pregnancy, 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, for example comments such as, “We were looking for someone younger”, “Your religion is not welcome here”, “Pregnant women should stay home”, or “A woman should not be working in a job like this.” However, illegal discrimination is much harder to spot.
In addition, legitimate business decisions can sometimes appear to be discriminatory, when they in fact are not. If your company has been wrongfully accused of committing a discriminatory act, please fill out and send our email contact form. We would be happy to review your matter, and contact you about your potential options.