Employers in Texas need to know what constitutes illegal discrimination. Being informed may avoid a lawsuit.
“When it comes to employment law in Texas, there are two forms of illegal discrimination that you need to know about for your business. The first thing is you can’t decline to hire or promote an individual because of certain characteristics. The other thing to be aware of is how you handle termination. If you aren’t careful, you may end up being sued for wrongful termination if you fire someone because of certain characteristics,” outlined Ty Gomez, who writes for the Dallas based Gomez Law Group.
In Texas it is illegal to discriminate against someone because of their race, sex, national origin, disability, religion or age. “Granted, the law does not specifically mention sexual orientation as being an illegal reason to fire or not hire. However, it ‘is’ illegal for employers to ‘ask’ about a prospective worker’s sexual orientation, or family life for that matter,” Gomez explained.
Employees should also be aware that there are some characteristics that are not protected. An example would be that it is considered legal for a boss to refuse to hire a person with a criminal record. It is also legal if that same employer fires a current worker if they find out the employee has a criminal record.
“There is an important distinction to be made here though,” added Gomez. “It is illegal to ask questions about arrests or any possible accusations during the course of a job interview. Put another way, being accused of a crime does not mean the person ‘is’ guilty. This means you may only ask about ‘convictions,” he added.
In this day and age when immigration issues are such a hot topic, it is considered legal to ask a prospective new hire about their legal status as it relates to work and also about any accommodations the worker may need to do their job. If a worker is not able to do the job they are applying for without “reasonable” accommodations, it is not discrimination if they are not given that position.
“Texas is an ‘at will’ state, meaning employees are considered to be at will. What that means is a worker may leave a job anytime they want to and for any reason. That works both ways though and the employer may let a worker go at anytime for any reason, provided it does not fall under illegal discrimination. This is why it is vital that you know the employment law in Texas and stay compliant,” Gomez explained.
Are there exceptions to at will employment? “Yes, and they’re both related to any contract an employee and the company may sign. For example, signing a contract that states the employment term lasts for a determined period of time, or that the worker may only be fired under specific circumstances. If the parties sign this contract, the company has to keep the worker until the specified length of time expires or it violates the contract. And, the worker must keep working until the contract runs out,” stated Gomez.
Employment contracts must be extremely specific in Texas and if there is any doubt about how they should be worded, it is critical to seek experienced legal counsel to avoid a lawsuit.
Gomez Law Group is a Dallas employment lawyer and Dallas business lawyer. To learn more, visit http://www.gomezlawyers.com.