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Do I Have A Claim For Hostile Work Environment?

Navigating work related claims can be tricky under Texas law.  Many people ask us “do I have a claim for hostile work environment?”  Our answer is that it is very fact intensive.  There is no such thing as hostile work environment claim unless it is specifically related to race, age, sex, religion, national origin, or a disability (or retaliation for reporting or opposing one of those categories).

Texas is a very employer friendly state.  It is an “at will” state, meaning that your employer can hire you, fire you, promote you or demote you for a good reason, a bad reason or no reason at all IF it is not related to race, age, sex, religion, national origin, a disability, retaliation or a few whistleblower exceptions.  We call these the “protected categories” because the law does provide protection for bad conduct related specifically to these categories.  Your supervisors, co-workers or management are free to be mean, obnoxious, unfair, unfriendly and/or unkind so long as it does not relate to one of the categories mentioned.  In other words, if the bad person is an “equal opportunity” bad person—they’re mean, obnoxious, unfair, unfriendly and/or unkind to everyone or it is not related specifically to one of the protected categories, then it is not against the law.  There is no claim for hostile work environment unless you can prove that the bad conduct is specifically related to one of the protected categories or retaliation for reporting/opposing discrimination in one of the categories.

If someone at work is treating you badly, think about why.  Do you believe that is because of a protected category?  If so, report that in writing according to your company’s reporting policy as reflected in the company policies/handbook—for example to Human Resources.  Always report in writing.  You may consider also filing a Charge with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the Texas Workforce Commission or the Fort Worth Human Relations Commission (if you are employed in Fort Worth).  There are time deadlines that apply to filing a Charge, so you must do so within 180 days of the bad conduct (under Texas law) or 300 days of the bad conduct (under federal law).

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