Like most states, Texas labor laws allow for "at will" employment. Unless a contract says otherwise, employers can fire workers at will, for almost any reason. There are some limits, though: employers can't fire you based on race or religion, for example. If you're the victim of job discrimination, you file a complaint with the Texas Workforce Commission's Civil Rights Division. The commission also handles complaints about other unfair practices, such as employers refusing to pay you.
Texas Employment Discrimination
Texas labor laws ban employment discrimination by any government employer, or private employers with 15 or more workers. If you're covered, you can file a complaint, if the company discriminates against you in hiring, firing, promotion or job duties because of discrimination:
- Age. Employers can't discriminate against anyone who is 40 or older. That includes asking age-related question in job interviews or posting help-wanted ads with age restrictions.
- Skin color. This isn't just about ethnicity: discriminating between two African-Americans based on the lightness of their skin is as discriminating between an African-American and a white applicant.
- Disability. If you can perform the job with a reasonable accommodation, employers can't discriminate against you because of a disability. Employers can ask in job interviews whether you can perform the work, but not whether you're disabled.
- Race. This includes discriminating against employees with interracial marriages, or attending schools or houses of worship associated with particular races.
- National origin.
- Sex. That includes harassment, defined as unwelcome advances, requests for sexual favors or "physical touching of a sexual nature."
- Religion. That includes scheduling activities that conflict with a worker's religious practice, or refusing to let employees follow religious rules about dress and grooming.
- Emergency evacuation. If there's an evacuation order that covers your workplace or your home, your employer can't penalize you for evacuating.
- Retaliation for filing a discrimination complaint.
Employment discrimination includes making decisions based on stereotypes: that African Americans are stupid, for instance, or that Asian-Americans are all good with technology.
Unfair labor practices include more than discrimination. You can also file a complaint if you're employer doesn't pay you on time.
Filing a Discrimination Complaint
The Texas department of labor is the Texas Workforce Commission, mistakenly called the Texas Labor Board or Texas Labor Commission. If you search for any of those names online, you'll get to the right website. If you're filing an unfair practices complaint under Texas' labor laws, this is the place to go to.
You can file a discrimination complaint with the TWC if you worked within Texas for a company with at least 15 employees. The discrimination must have taken place within the 180 days before you submitted the complaint. You can download a discrimination-complaint form from the Texas Workforce Commission Civil Rights Division, or write a complaint and submit it by email, mail or in person. You can't do it over the phone.
Complaints submitted to the TWC also go to the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Once the TWC signs off on your complaint, it can go to mediation, if you and your employer agree, or to investigation.
Where's Your Pay?
Texas' Payday Law says you must be paid at least once a month or twice a month, if you're not exempt from working overtime. The paydays should be posted in your workplace. If you quit or get fired, your last paycheck is still due on the next payday.
If you did not get paid all or part of your paycheck, you can file online with the TWC. You have 180 days after the pay went missing to do this. You can also complain, if your employer doesn't pay you for all of the time you put in; for example, if your employer does not pay you for training or meeting times.