The Lone Star State of Texas has behaved at times more like an independent fiefdom than like a state of a larger nation. Texas’ fiercely independent mentality dates back at least to the 19th century, during which time no fewer than six separate entities governed the land. (For a time during this period, Texas actually became an autonomous republic.)
Today, the state is home to nearly 25 million people and generates an annual gross product of nearly $1.1 trillion. That’s equal in size to the economy of India. Texas maintains a business-friendly climate by keeping state taxes as low as possible and maintaining only limited state services. Major TX industries include oil and natural gas, finance, farming and ranching, fishing (along the coast), and aeronautics and IT.
The Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) handles cases regarding issues such as:
- Harassment. Texas employers may not create or encourage work environments hostile to workers of either gender. This means they may not allow employees or managers to subject others to repeated unwanted romantic advances, inappropriate conduct or conversation, or an atmosphere generally hostile towards any employee.
- Discrimination. Various laws exist on the state and federal law prohibiting adverse or unfair treatment by employers based on several factors, such an applicant or employee’s sex, age, religion, race, or national origin.
The TWC is a neutral agency – it offers services to both employers and employees. Among its many functions, it educates and trains workers and business owners, investigates discrimination claims, provides resources and training for job seekers, and keeps tabs on trends in the labor market. Throughout the state, there are 28 different regional TWC boards.
Some of the key Texas laws regulating discrimination, harassment and retaliation at the workplace include:
- Civil Rights Acts of 1964, Title VII
- Equal Pay Act of 1963
- Texas Labor Code Chapters 21 and 22
- Texas Administrative Code Part 20
Texas’ southern border with Mexico has long been dominated by socioeconomic, racial, and political paradoxes. Mexican-born laborers living in south Texas are often willing to work for less pay and labor under fewer protections than their American peers. A potent brew of issues commonly arise, such as:
- Racial discrimination and discrimination based on national original. Employers and other workers may not discriminate against job applicants and employees or subject them to hostile or unfair working conditions based on the color of their skin or country of origin.
- Wage and hour violations. Particularly when their workers are unfamiliar with the laws and customs of the United States, employers may pay less than minimum wage, neglect to pay overtime, and otherwise withhold pay from individuals desperate for an income.
- Retaliation. When an employer infringes on a worker’s legal rights, the worker has the right to challenge such behaviors within the company – or with the help of legal counsel. Companies may not retaliate against these individuals by reducing their hours, demoting them, firing them, or otherwise “punishing” them for standing up for themselves.
These and other behaviors from dishonest or angry employers can make working at the border miserable.
Fortunately, if a Texas employer has violated anti-discrimination law, you can take legal action to correct the problem and/or demand compensation. Look to a local employment attorney for guidance.