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Understanding retaliation claims in Texas

Hiring, firing and other employment decisions are not determinations that employers make lightly. These decisions have financial and legal ramifications that can deeply impact a business. 

This can be especially true when an employee disagrees with an employment decision, claiming the decision was retaliatory. Under these circumstances, an employee could file a lawsuit seeking damages.

What is retaliation?

Retaliation is an adverse employment action taken against an employee or applicant for employment because he or she has engaged in "protected conduct." Protected conduct includes things such as internal complaints about discrimination (based on race, sex, national origin, religion, age, disability, for example), participating in a discrimination investigation, or filing a charge of discrimination with the Texas Workforce Commission-Civil Rights Division or Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. It can even include a past lawsuit based on discrimination.

What does retaliation look like?

Retaliation can take many different forms. It could include: 

  • Firing an employee
  • Not hiring someone
  • Denying someone a promotion
  • Relocating the employee to a less desirable or convenient location
  • Placing the employee under increased scrutiny
  • Giving unjustified, negative feedback or evaluations

Should any of these actions occur in direct connection to the above-mentioned behaviors, an employee may have grounds for a retaliation claim.

Is it really retaliation?

It is crucial to understand that a negative or punitive action against an employee is not always retaliatory. Often, employers are justified in taking them for reasons other than any activity in which an employee may or may not have participated. 

If there is no direct connection between an adverse action and a person's protected activity, then allegations of retaliation may be inappropriate. Of course, optics matter, and optics are all an employee often has to go on when deciding whether to pursue a retaliation claim.

Whether you are an employer or an employee in Texas, it is crucial to understand employment laws and rights. Failure to do so could lead to costly missteps and poor decisions that have financial or professional fallout. 

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