How are Employees Protected from Employer Discrimination?
What is Title VII?
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Chapter 21 of the Texas Labor Code protect employees from discrimination mainly on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, and national origin, making it unlawful for an employer to discriminate against an employee or applicant because of these protected classes. These laws apply to Texas employers with at least 15 employees. The purpose of Title VII is to make it illegal for employers to discriminate against employees or applicants based on traits that they themselves cannot change, otherwise known as their “immutable characteristics.” While Title VII is certainly not the only anti-discrimination law that may apply to Texas employers, it is arguably the broadest and most consequential law of its kind.
What defines Discrimination?
Discrimination can occur against an individual within a protected class based on any employer decision affecting their hiring, firing, promotion, demotion, compensation, or any other term or condition of their employment. Discrimination here can take the form of racist or sexist slurs, segregation and classification of minority employees, and using religious devotion as a basis for hiring. Title VII also gives employees a right to be free from retaliation for opposing to such discrimination or engaging in protected activity, such as by filing a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) or otherwise participating in an investigation under Title VII. Title VII also requires employer to provide reasonable accommodations to the religious practices of an employee, unless such accommodations would create an undue hardship for the employer.
What happens if I file an EEOC complaint?
In most cases, the employee has the burden of proving that their employer engaged in unlawful discrimination. Intentional discrimination can be shown by an employee through utilizing direct or circumstantial evidence. Although rare, direct evidence (i.e., biased statements made by a manager against employees in a protected class) will often be the best kind of evidence for an employee to present. More often however, employees will need to rely on circumstantial evidence (i.e., happenings behind a termination raise the inference that the employee was firing because of their protected class) to initiate a discrimination claim. Title VII also prohibits employment practices that have a disparate impact on employees within a protected class, even where such practices appear to be neutral and when there is no clear evidence of intentional discrimination by the employer.
What happens if I am discriminated against at my job?
Remedies available to an employee discriminated against under Title VII can include back pay, front pay, pain and suffering damages, punitive damages, reinstatement of the employee to their job position, injunction against the employer for future violations, and attorney’s fees. For compensatory and punitive damages that may be awarded to a successful employee, the total amount here is capped by the number of people working for the employer at issue. Like the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), Title VII is enforced by the EEOC and the Texas Workforce Commission (TWC). The EEOC and TWC process of investigating a charge of discrimination is usually where the evidentiary record is first created to be used in support of or against an employee’s position at trial.
Speak with an experienced Employment Lawyer today if you feel like you have been discriminated against at your job.
Discrimination can feel grey sometimes but it helps to speak with an employment lawyer to know all of your rights and protections as an employee. We will always recommend speaking to an employment lawyer like Ross Scalise Employment Lawyers to know the specific laws in your state.