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The Houston Employment Law Blog tag:houstonemploymentlawsblog.com,2009-03-23://56 2010-12-21T18:06:29Z Houston Employment Law News and Information Movable Type Enterprise 4.24-en Houston Unemployment Rate Now At 8.6 Percent tag:houstonemploymentlawsblog.com,2010://56.19149 2010-12-21T18:08:39Z 2010-12-21T18:06:29Z The unemployment rate in the Houston area rose to 8.6 percent in November 2010 after holding a steady unemployment rate of 8.2 percent for the prior two months. Yet the Houston Business Journal reports that the Houston-Sugar Land-Baytown metropolitan area... Laura Fishman The unemployment rate in the Houston area rose to 8.6 percent in November 2010 after holding a steady unemployment rate of 8.2 percent for the prior two months. Yet the Houston Business Journal reports that the Houston-Sugar Land-Baytown metropolitan area is continuing to add jobs around the holiday season.

The Business Journal cited a report released by the Texas Workforce Commission, which stated that there were about 10,900 non-agricultural jobs added to the Houston area last month. Most of these new jobs were in the trade, transportation and utilities sector. Unfortunately, the thousands of new jobs in the metropolitan area were outweighed by 11,700 people in Houston that joined the ranks of unemployment last month.

]> Houston still fares better than the rest of the country when it comes to rates of unemployment. November's overall unemployment rate across the country was at 9.8 percent, which is up from the national unemployment rate of 9 percent in October and up from the 9.4 percent unemployment rate in November 2009.

Because of the surge in unemployment, it's likely that many Houston residents will be filing for Unemployment Insurance. Compensation and benefits are available to people who have been put out of work through no fault of their own. See the Texas Workforce Commission's website to find out the state's specific guidelines and qualifications for receiving Unemployment Insurance. A Houston employment lawyer in the area can also provide assistance and answer specific questions from both current or former employees about the process of filing a claim for unemployment in the state of Texas.

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TWC Encourages Equal Employment Opportunity Training tag:houstonemploymentlawsblog.com,2010://56.19099 2010-12-20T19:02:31Z 2010-12-20T18:48:04Z Houston employers that are looking to avoid discrimination and harassment lawsuits may want to look into Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) training that is provided by the state of Texas. The Civil Rights Division of the Texas Workforce Commission writes that... Laura Fishman Houston employers that are looking to avoid discrimination and harassment lawsuits may want to look into Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) training that is provided by the state of Texas. The Civil Rights Division of the Texas Workforce Commission writes that they offer a variety of comprehensive EEO training programs.

The purpose of the training programs is to provide supervisors and managers of companies with an understanding of EEO. The EEO training programs cover legal issues, including guidelines for hiring, administering evaluations, disciplinary action, terminations and layoffs. The Civil Rights Division offers the EEO training at the requestors site at a minimum cost. The length of the training varies, but is usually from four to eight hours depending on the program.

]> How exactly does EEO training benefit the employer? Such training can give clarification of the responsibilities for both the employer and employee. The training may also reduce the number of EEO-related complaints in a company and provide a better understanding of how EEO law works.

Texas employers can contact Tony Robertson with the Civil Rights Division of TWC for scheduling EEO training at (512) 463-4678. Federal laws and state laws are supposed to protect workers from various types of discrimination and harassment in the workplace. Federal laws also protect employees if they wish to file a discrimination complaint against an employer. Thus, it's illegal  for an employer to retaliate against an employee for making a complaint. Employees in Texas that have questions about their rights under EEO laws should contact a Houston employment lawyer or the state's Civil Rights Division.

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Sexual Harassment Lawsuit Filed Against Cheesecake Factory tag:houstonemploymentlawsblog.com,2010://56.18982 2010-12-16T18:02:48Z 2010-12-16T17:30:04Z A former employee of the Cheesecake Factory restaurant in Brandon, Florida claims that he was a victim of sexual harassment while working as a line chef for the company and is now taking legal action over the matter. The 42-year-old... Laura Fishman A former employee of the Cheesecake Factory restaurant in Brandon, Florida claims that he was a victim of sexual harassment while working as a line chef for the company and is now taking legal action over the matter. The 42-year-old man has filed a federal lawsuit against the restaurant chain and is seeking compensation for "mental anguish and loss of dignity," as stated by Brandon News and Tribune.

The plaintiff Michael Knight claims that other line chefs in the Cheesecake Factory continually grabbed each others' buttocks and genitalia and simulated sexual intercourse in front of him. He says that he was mocked, punished, and later terminated from his position after expressing discomfort with such behavior.

]> The lawsuit against the Cheesecake Factory is very similar to another lawsuit that was filed against the company last year in Arizona, which settled for $345,000. The case involved six employees at Cheesecake Factory that were allegedly subjected to sexual harassment in an Arizona location. As part of the settlement, the restaurant chain was supposed to train its employees and managers about sexual harassment and institute an ombudsman to address employees' sexual harassment complaints.

There are many Cheesecake Factory locations in the state of Texas, including restaurants in Houston, Sugar Land, and Woodlands. Sexual harassment is illegal in the state and at the federal level under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. Anybody that is subjected to sexual harassment as an employee should contact a Houston employment lawyer to learn more information on filing a harassment claim.

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Discrimination Suit Against FMC Technologies Results With Hung Jury tag:houstonemploymentlawsblog.com,2010://56.18897 2010-12-15T17:55:13Z 2010-12-14T21:29:20Z Past and present employees of the company FMC Technologies claim that they were subjected to racial discrimination on the job and decided to file a lawsuit against the company that asked for $120 million in damages. KHOU News reports that... Laura Fishman Past and present employees of the company FMC Technologies claim that they were subjected to racial discrimination on the job and decided to file a lawsuit against the company that asked for $120 million in damages. KHOU News reports that plaintiffs in the case included seven African-American employees that said they were victims of extreme forms of racial harassment.

During one instance, employees said that they found two nooses hanging from the company's shipping dock. Racist name-calling, KKK symbols, confederate flags and swastikas were allegedly in the workplace as well. Employees stated that a lawsuit was filed after FMC Technologies failed to take appropriate action.

]> Yet the federal jury in Houston was reportedly hung on the amount of damages that were owed to the plaintiffs in this case. Angela Alioto, the lawyer representing the employees, said that she is now looking for a retrial of the plaintiff's remaining claims.

FindLaw states that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits an employer from discriminating against an employee  on the basis of race, national origin, gender, or religion. Harassment in the workplace is considered to be a form of such discrimination. Anybody who feels that they've been a victim of racial discrimination or racial harassment as an employee should contact a Houston employment lawyer or the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) to learn more information on filing an employment discrimination claim. More information on employment discrimination can be found through our Related Resources pages.

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ACE American Accused of Wrongfully Denying Workers' Comp Claims tag:houstonemploymentlawsblog.com,2010://56.18869 2010-12-14T18:11:41Z 2010-12-14T00:53:27Z Laura Fishman ACE American did not meet mandatory payment deadlines on some workers' compensation claims in 2008 and in 2009. ]> Through a workers' compensation claim in Texas, an employee is typically allowed to receive income benefits, medical benefits, burial benefits, and death benefits. Information on the eligibility for these benefits can be found through the Texas Insurance Department's website. Earlier this year, ACE American reportedly paid $221,000 in fines to settle allegations filed in the state of Texas. In one case, Texas records showed that the insurer paid a $74,000 fine after being accused of failing to pay medical costs related to an emergency or treatments that require preauthorization, even when the treatment was preauthorized. In another case, ACE American settled a disciplinary action by paying $147,000 for allegedly failing to comply with an order of the state workers' compensation commissioner.

Employees in the state of Texas that have questions about workers' compensation should first contact the state's Workers' Compensation Commission. The agency's website provides information on benefits, workers' compensation forms, and workers' health and safety resources. It's illegal for an employer to fire an employee or retaliate against an employee for filing a workers' compensation claim. If you're looking to file a lawsuit against an employer for retaliation, it's best to contact a Houston employment lawyer to learn more information on filing a claim.

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High Unemployment Rate For College Graduates tag:houstonemploymentlawsblog.com,2010://56.18757 2010-12-10T18:05:50Z 2010-12-10T01:49:10Z The unemployment rate for Americans with at least a bachelor's degree rose to 5.1 percent last month, which USA Today reports as the highest unemployment rate among college grads since the year 1970. The national unemployment rate also rose to... Laura Fishman The unemployment rate for Americans with at least a bachelor's degree rose to 5.1 percent last month, which USA Today reports as the highest unemployment rate among college grads since the year 1970. The national unemployment rate also rose to 9.8 percent from 9.6 percent last month.

A high unemployment rate among college graduates could be problematic around the country and in the state of Texas, because students often graduate from college with loans. Not being able to pay off student loans or other bills could drive some individuals into debt. Economists now know that times are tough when the college unemployment rate is at a 40 year low.

]> Many people in Texas that are unemployed will look into Unemployment Insurance for compensation, but many Texans that are recent college graduates may not qualify for the state's unemployment benefits. In order to be eligible for Unemployment Insurance, the Texas Workforce Commission reports that a person must have earned wages during a recent 12-month period. The employee must also be unemployed through no fault of their own (laid off or fired without work-related misconduct) in order to receive the unemployment benefits.

If there is a dispute with an Unemployment Insurance claim in Texas, the employer and former employee will likely have to attend a court hearing to each argue their case on whether or not unemployment benefits should be paid. Anybody with questions about their legal rights under the state's unemployment compensation system should contact a Houston employment lawyer in the area to learn more information.

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Hotel Employee Claims Retaliation After Filing EEOC Complaint tag:houstonemploymentlawsblog.com,2010://56.18686 2010-12-09T18:05:39Z 2010-12-09T00:58:06Z Laura Fishman Mark Reed claims that he worked as a maintenance employee with La Quinta Inns & Suites Inc. for 11 years, but the man is now suing his employer claiming that he was subjected to a hostile work environment and retaliation because of his disability.

The Southeast Record reports that Mark Reed is disabled and suffers from a deformity of his left arm and left hand. The employee claimed that he was called derogatory names such as "short-handed" while working with La Quinta and felt humiliated because of his disability. After filing a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the man claimed that he was retaliated against by having his workload increased and having his overtime opportunities reduced.

]> In this case, the plaintiff is claiming violations of the Americans with Disability Act (ADA) through discrimination and is seeking damages for economic losses and costs, mental anguish, loss of enjoyment of life, punitive damages, attorney's fees, court costs, interest, attorney's fees and punitive damages.

FindLaw states that ADA, which was enacted in 1990, makes it unlawful to discriminate in employment against a qualified individual with a disability. The law is enforced by EEOC and applies to all employers, including State and local government employers, that have more than 15 employees. ADA also protects employees that have a history of a disability even if the disability no longer exists. Anybody who is subjected to disability discrimination in the workplace should contact the EEOC or a Houston employment lawyer to learn more information on filing a lawsuit against the employer.

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Sexual Harassment Claims In Williamson County tag:houstonemploymentlawsblog.com,2010://56.18580 2010-12-07T18:03:33Z 2010-12-06T23:50:23Z Two former female employees of Williamson County that worked under now-retired County Court-at-Law Judge Don Higginbotham claim that they were victims of sexual harassment when working with the judge. The Austin American-Statesman reported that the two women have filed a... Laura Fishman Two former female employees of Williamson County that worked under now-retired County Court-at-Law Judge Don Higginbotham claim that they were victims of sexual harassment when working with the judge. The Austin American-Statesman reported that the two women have filed a complaint with the Texas Workforce Commission and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and that the former employees are now suing for damages.

In this case, the plaintiffs are former court reporter Kimberly Lee and former court secretary Sharon McGuyer. On one occasion, Don Higginbotham allegedly told one of the plaintiffs to "come here, that he needed help going to the bathroom because it was too heavy for him to hold it up," according to the lawsuit. The judge also allegedly uttered profanity and other sexual comments.

]> Both Kimberly Lee and Sharon McGuyer were reportedly terminated from their positions after they received a federal notice of their right to sue. FindLaw states that an employer is liable when supervisors or managers are responsible for the hostile environment, unless the employer can prove that it exercised reasonable care to prevent and promptly correct harassing behavior. Examples of sexual harassment in the workplace can include unwelcome physical contact, comments of a sexual nature, or other hostile work environment conditions.

Factors that are considered when a court decides on whether a work environment is hostile or not are: frequency of offensive behavior, severity of the offensive behavior, conduct of the victim, size and nature of the company or workplace.

Sexual harassment is a serious workplace issue. Anybody that believes that they've been a victim of sexual harassment in the workplace should contact a Houston employment lawyer to learn more information on how to file a claim.

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Millions of People to Lose Unemployment Benefits This Month tag:houstonemploymentlawsblog.com,2010://56.18458 2010-12-03T18:07:56Z 2010-12-02T23:53:35Z Nearly two million people across the country will no longer be receiving unemployment benefits this month, as Congress voted not to renew extended jobless benefits by November 30. Unless Congress changes its mind, MSNBC reports that benefits that had been... Laura Fishman Nearly two million people across the country will no longer be receiving unemployment benefits this month, as Congress voted not to renew extended jobless benefits by November 30. Unless Congress changes its mind, MSNBC reports that benefits that had been extended up to 99 weeks will end.

People that are jobless will still be able to collect benefits, but compensation will expire after just six months of unemployment. This puts millions of unemployed individuals in a financially unstable position right before the holiday season.

]> According to ABC KIVA, there were 466,000 people in the state of Texas receiving some type of unemployment benefits through October of this year. The state's unemployment rate in October was at 8.1 percent and the national unemployment rate was slightly higher at 9.6 percent. The Texas Workforce Commission estimates that 200,000 people will be immediately affected with Congress not extending job benefits.

Yet even with Congress' decision to not extend unemployment benefits, Houston employment lawyers and the Texas Workforce Commission will continue to instruct claimants on how to file for unemployment benefits in the state. Most employees who have been laid off, wrongfully discharged, or forced to leave employment for a compelling reason are entitled to receive unemployment compensation benefits for at least six months or until they find new work.

If you are preparing for an unemployment benefits hearing, it may help to speak with a Houston employment lawyer. For more general information about unemployment benefits and how to file for an unemployment benefits claim, visit our Related Resources pages.

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Frito Lay Employee Files Age Discrimination Suit tag:houstonemploymentlawsblog.com,2010://56.18368 2010-12-01T18:07:32Z 2010-12-01T00:51:12Z Under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA), it's illegal for an employer to discriminate against employees and applicants who are 40 years of age or older based on their age. One 52-year-old employee at Frito Lay is... Laura Fishman Under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA), it's illegal for an employer to discriminate against employees and applicants who are 40 years of age or older based on their age. One 52-year-old employee at Frito Lay is filing an age discrimination suit against the company, alleging violations of ADEA.

The Southeast Texas Record reports that the employee Ismail B. Dhanani was a temporary worker with Frito Lay in Sherman and that he had expressed interest in obtaining a permanent position with Frito Lay on several occasions. Ismail B. Dhanani claimed that his supervisor stated that the permanent accounting positions required a Certified Public Accountant qualification. However, the employee argues that the company hired a 23-year-old female for the position who was not a CPA.

]> The employee claimed that all the permanent positions in the company were offered to females under the age of 40. The plaintiff in this case is also claiming that he is a victim of gender discrimination in addition to age discrimination. He is reportedly seeking damages for back pay, front pay, pecuniary losses, emotional pain and suffering, inconvenience, loss of enjoyment of life, punitive damages, attorney's fees and court costs.

In this case the Southeast Texas Record stated that Ismail B. Dhanani is acting as his own attorney. However, there are many Houston employment lawyers in the area that work on cases involving age discrimination and gender discrimination. More information on employment discrimination cases can be found through our Related Resources pages.

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Does Texas Require Overtime Pay When Working on Holidays? tag:houstonemploymentlawsblog.com,2010://56.18234 2010-11-29T17:59:42Z 2010-11-25T03:07:25Z People expecting to get paid a lot of money when working on a federal holiday might be disappointed to find out that employees in the private sector don't have to be paid beyond their normal rate of pay on holidays.... Laura Fishman People expecting to get paid a lot of money when working on a federal holiday might be disappointed to find out that employees in the private sector don't have to be paid beyond their normal rate of pay on holidays. Under Texas state laws and the Fair Labor Standards Act, holidays are treated like any other work day and no time off or extra pay is required.

Despite these laws, the Houston Chronicle reports that many companies choose to give their employees bonus pay or paid time off on holidays to improve morale and attract employees. Most public sector employees in Texas receive 10 paid holidays each year as ordered by federal law. These holidays include New Year's Day, Martin Luther King Day, President's Day, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Columbus Day, Veteran's Day, Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day.

]> An employee usually has the right to take unpaid time off on religious holidays, such as Christmas or Easter, if there are at least 15 employees working for the employer. As we reported in an earlier blog post, not giving employees time off for religious purposes could be a violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. If an employee is denied leave for a religious holiday, the employer must show that the employee cannot be reasonably accommodated without undue hardship.

Any employee who feels that their employer is violating federal or state labor laws should contact a Houston employment lawyer to learn more information on filing a claim. Employees can also learn more about their rights in the workplace when it comes to wages by contacting the Texas Workforce Commission.

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Senate Blocks Paycheck Fairness Act tag:houstonemploymentlawsblog.com,2010://56.18060 2010-11-22T15:05:33Z 2010-11-19T21:47:28Z A law that would have made it easier for women to file class-action lawsuits against employers for sex-based pay discrimination was turned down in the Senate last week after senators failed to round up the necessary 60 votes to put... Laura Fishman A law that would have made it easier for women to file class-action lawsuits against employers for sex-based pay discrimination was turned down in the Senate last week after senators failed to round up the necessary 60 votes to put the bill to a vote. CBS News reports that the Paycheck Fairness Act had strong support from civil rights groups, labor leaders, and the Obama administration, but that Republicans opposed the measure because of fear that such a law would expose employers to more litigation.

]> The bill was passed by the House last year, shortly after President Obama was elected. The Paycheck Fairness Act would have made it easier for women to file sex discrimination suits against employers because the Act would have required companies to be more cognizant of their pay practices. The law would have also ensured that employees aren't retaliated against for asking how their colleagues are compensated in their paychecks and would have created a new grant program to strengthen negotiation skills for women.

President Obama says that despite last week's vote, his administration will "continue to fight for a woman's right to equal pay for equal work." As stated in the Huffington Post, women working full-time in 2009 were paid 77 cents on average for every dollar paid to men. This translates to men making wages over $10,000 compared to that of women. Any woman that becomes a victim of employment discrimination in the workplace should contact a Houston employment lawyer to learn more information on filing a claim against an employer.

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Employee at Chinese Buffet Sues Over Unpaid Wages tag:houstonemploymentlawsblog.com,2010://56.18018 2010-11-19T18:04:06Z 2010-11-19T17:03:33Z Jose Armando Miranda Gonzalez, a restaurant employee in the Houston-area, has filed a lawsuit against Hu Jiang Inc. after getting paid wages that were less than the minimum wage. He claims that he got paid $1,500 a month, but that... Laura Fishman Jose Armando Miranda Gonzalez, a restaurant employee in the Houston-area, has filed a lawsuit against Hu Jiang Inc. after getting paid wages that were less than the minimum wage. He claims that he got paid $1,500 a month, but that he generally worked 12 hours a day and six days per week, as did other salad prep cooks working for the company.

The Southeast Texas Record reports that the lawsuit against Hu Jiang Inc. claims violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). The company does business as King Buffet, Jin Zhu Wang, and Li Qiu Jiang and has restaurant locations in La Porte, Pasadena, and Houston. The lawsuit is a collective action among several current and former salad prep cooks that worked for the company.

]> With help from a Houston employment lawyer, the plaintiff is seeking an award of unpaid wages, unpaid overtime wages, liquidated damages and attorney’s fees. According to FindLaw, FLSA requires covered, non-exempt employees to be paid a minimum wage of at least $7.25 per hour worked. Employees must also be paid at a rate of not less than one and one-half times their regular rate of pay when they work more than 40 hours in a work week. The FLSO rules apply to workers in the private sector and in Federal, State, and local governments.

In addition to establishing minimum wage and overtime pay laws, FLSA also covers laws that deal with recordkeeping and child labor standards affecting full-time and part-time workers. More information on basic wage standards in the workplace can be found through our Related Resource pages.

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Understanding the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008 tag:houstonemploymentlawsblog.com,2010://56.17954 2010-11-18T14:59:22Z 2010-11-17T21:31:19Z Under Title II of the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008 (GINA), it’s illegal to discriminate against employees or job applicants on the basis of their genetic information. FindLaw states that the law went into effect last year so that... Laura Fishman Under Title II of the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008 (GINA), it’s illegal to discriminate against employees or job applicants on the basis of their genetic information. FindLaw states that the law went into effect last year so that patients would not decline to take advantage of the increasing availability of genetic testing for fear that they could lose their jobs or health insurance if the tests revealed adverse information. In 2008, the bill passed in the Senate unanimously and passed in the house by a vote of 414 to 1.

]> The law specifically outlaws making employment decisions based on a person’s genetic information, and puts limits on the disclosure of genetic information among employees. Under GINA, an employer cannot deny health coverage on the basis of genetic information, charge higher premiums based on genetic information, or use such information for firing or promoting among employees. GINA also prohibits workplace harassment based on an employee’s genetic information.

According to 9News.com, the U.S Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) recently issued the final regulations implementing the employment provisions of GINA. So perhaps it’s a good time for employees to learn more about their rights under GINA. More information about the law can be found at http://www.genome.gov/24519851.

Employees that feel their rights have been violated under GINA should consider contacting a Houston employment lawyer to learn more information on filing a claim. Employees can also contact the EEOC to learn more about filing such a claim.

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Former Employee Sues Transit Authority in Harris County tag:houstonemploymentlawsblog.com,2010://56.17876 2010-11-16T18:10:47Z 2010-11-16T16:04:46Z Peter Thachamattam, an Indian from Alief, believed that he was denied a promotion with the Metropolitan Transit Authority because of his race. After complaining of racial discrimination in the workplace, Ultimate Aldine News reported thatthe employee was terminated from the... Laura Fishman Peter Thachamattam, an Indian from Alief, believed that he was denied a promotion with the Metropolitan Transit Authority because of his race. After complaining of racial discrimination in the workplace, Ultimate Aldine News reported thatthe employee was terminated from the company.

Claiming violations of the Texas Labor Code, Peter Thachamattam is now suing the Metropolitan Transit Authority in Harris County District Court. Thachamattam claims that he was retaliated against for complaining of racial discrimination and now has a Houston employment lawyer representing him in the lawsuit. He is seeking punitive and exemplary damages, as well as court costs in this employment law case.

]> On the other side, the Metropolitan Transit Authority claimed to fire Peter Thachamattam because he made a threatening gesture to co-workers and performed his duties unsatisfactorily. It will now be up to a lawyer to prove that the termination was due to racial discrimination.

FindLaw states that racial discrimination in the workplace violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act at the federal level. Retaliating against an employee who files a complaint on the basis of race-related issues is a form of racial discrimination under Title VII. In addition to outlawing racial discrimination in the workplace, Title VII also prohibits discrimination on the basis of color, religion, sex, and national origin. More information on federal and state employment discrimination laws can be found through Chapter 21 of Title 2 of the Texas Labor Code.

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