Gender discrimination takes many different forms and affects both women and men. Some forms may be apparent, and others such as pay disparity may not be discovered for years. A hostile work environment often results when inappropriate behavior becomes a routine part of the job.
Texas Labor Code 21 and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act prohibit sexual harassment, which is a form of gender discrimination. The laws apply to all employers with 15 or more employees and government agencies regardless of the number of employees.
Sexual harassment may start with an unwelcome advance and progress to sexually explicit comments and jokes or touches. When the conduct of a co-worker, boss or an on-site contractor interferes with your ability to complete work, it is likely sexual harassment. Many different circumstances may qualify as sexual harassment, for example:
- The gender of the harasser does not matter, and sexual harassment can occur between members of the same gender.
- The conduct must be unwelcome.
- A boss who makes sexual jokes at the expense of one member of a team may be at fault.
- Sexual innuendo and comments, rating looks and sexuality, as well as gestures and sounds are other examples of sexual harassment.
On the other hand, teasing or rare incidents may not rise to the level of sexual harassment.
What to do to stop harassment
Many employers have a system in place to address sexual harassment complaints. A first step may be to tell the person who is engaging in the unwelcome behavior to stop. If the behavior continues, then filing a complaint may be necessary.
It is unlawful for employers to retaliate against individuals for filing a complaint or cooperating with a Title VII investigation.
In a recent Texas retaliation case, a woman alleged that she was unlawfully terminated after she brought a gender discrimination suit. The company told her that the move was for cost cutting, but she argued that was only a pretext to cover the retaliation.
The woman was an independent contractor paid only commissions; however, the company was able to show it saved money on gas and insurance with the termination. The move was also part of a broader restructuring that removed a management position that was salaried. The court found that woman could not prove the termination was not tied to cost-cutting objectives.
This case demonstrates that proving a retaliation case is complicated. An employee must show there was not a valid reason supporting the adverse employment action. When harassment or retaliation occurs at your workplace, contact an experienced employment law attorney, who will be able to advise of possible remedies.