Texas Hostile Work Environment Laws

Employees oftentimes complain about not liking jobs, bosses, co-workers and tasks. However, not liking something about an employer or place of employment does not necessarily indicate a hostile work environment. What does Texas call a hostile work environment? Let’s discuss.

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Hostile Work Environment Definition

Complaining of a bad boss or bad place of employment does not entitle the claimant to a cause of action under Texas law. In order to discuss applicable laws, one must first understand what exactly Texas considers a “hostile work environment”.

A “hostile work environment” must give rise to a cause of action of illegal discrimination or other illegal or unethical conduct. Therefore, one may sue based on a hostile work environment if the cause of action has a legal remedy and linked to something legally prohibited.

This is best clarified through examples of hostile work environments:

  • A hostile work environment because of racial discrimination

  • A hostile work environment because of sexual harassment

  • A hostile work environment because of religious discrimination

  • A hostile work environment because of discrimination based on a disability

  • A hostile work environment due to retaliation to a whistleblower

  • A hostile work environment in response to a leave based on the Family Medical Leave Act

In sum, there are four main things to keep in mind:

  1. The hostile environment must be so severe that one cannot perform the job;

  2. The hostile environment must be rooted in some form of discrimination (i.e., based on sex, gender, religion) which has a legal claim and repercussions;

  3. The hostile behavior must be severe and exist over a long duration; and

  4. A reasonable person would find it reasonable to find this behavior hostile.

Texas Laws to Prevent a Hostile Work Environment

Although there are no specific Texas Laws that protect employees against a hostile work environment, federal laws extend protection. However, it is important to note that the standard to win a claim based on a hostile work environment is very high.

Discrimination is protected by federal laws through the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) which was created by the Civil Rights Act of 1964. (In order to learn more about the EEOC see the Texas EEOC Article).

 What Should I do if I’m Experiencing a Hostile Work Environment?

The initial step that one should take in order to halt a hostile work environment is to follow the employer’s harassment policies and report the matter to the appropriate departments. Once this option is exhausted, consulting a legal professional in order to determine whether legal remedies are available is the next appropriate step.