There is no substitute for legal advice. However, these resources are meant to provide some general information and to answer some common questions.
If you believe that you’ve been discriminated against because of your age, sex, race, national origin, religion, or disability, or retaliated against because you stood up to this kind of discrimination, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII) and the Texas Commission on Human Rights Act (TCHRA) both protect you. Title VII is one of the federal laws that protect you from this kind of treatment, while the TCHRA is the Texas state law that protects you from this kind of treatment. In order to preserve your right to sue your employer for this kind of conduct, you must first file a charge of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) to preserve your right to sue under Title VII, or the Texas Workforce Commission – Civil Rights Division (TWC-CRD) to preserve your right to sue under the TCHRA.
Importantly, you have limited time to do so. In Texas, the deadline to file a Charge of Discrimination with the EEOC based on a violation of Title VII is 300 days from the day the discrimination or retaliation took place. The deadline to file a Charge of Discrimination with the TWC-CRD based on a violation of the TCHRA is only 180 days from the day the discrimination or retaliation took place. In Texas, the EEOC and the TWC-CRD have a work-sharing agreement. This means that you can file a Charge of Discrimination with either agency and request that it be “cross-filed” with the other agency. This is the best practice, so that you can preserve your right to sue under either law provided you file your Charge of Discrimination within 180 days.
Once you are filed at the EEOC, other deadlines are in play. Your employer should receive a copy of your Charge of Discrimination within 10 days. The case may be referred to mediation, but if not, or if the case does not settle at mediation, your employer will be asked to provide a position statement to the EEOC or TWC-CRD. Several outcomes are possible once your Charge of Discrimination is under investigation with the EEOC or TWC-CRD. The EEOC or TWC-CRD may ultimately dismiss your Charge of Discrimination. This is the most common outcome, and can happen even if the EEOC or TWC-CRD finds that unlawful discrimination or retaliation occurred. Once your Charge of Discrimination is dismissed by the EEOC / TWC-CRD, you are free to file your discrimination or retaliation claim in court. Sometimes, when the EEOC finds that discrimination or retaliation occurred, the agency can file a lawsuit. This is extremely rare. More often than not, you will receive your “Notice of Right to Sue,” and you will file your lawsuit, either with or without counsel.
Once you receive your Notice of Right to Sue from the EEOC, you only have 90 days to file in court on your Title VII claim. Once you receive your Notice of Right to File a Civil Action from the TWC-CRD, you have only 60 days to file in court on your TCHRA claim. It is therefore important that you consult with an attorney who is well-versed in employment law before you either go to the EEOC or TWC-CRD, or once you receive a Notice of Right to Sue or Notice of Right to File a Civil Action.
Them’s the rules, unless you are pursuing an age discrimination claim. In that case, you don’t need a Notice of Right to Sue to file in court. Rather, you can file anytime after 60 days has passed from the day you filed your Charge of Discrimination (but no later than 90 days after you receive notice that the agency’s investigation has concluded).
Them’s not the rules if you wish to file a lawsuit under the Equal Pay Act. In that case, you don’t have to file a Charge of Discrimination with the EEOC at all. You can go directly to court, provided that you file suit within 2 years from the day the discrimination took place (3 years if the discrimination was willful).
Another deadline to keep in mind is that back pay, the amount of salary and benefits you’ve lost because of the discrimination or retaliation, is limited to two years prior to the date on which the Charge of Discrimination was filed.
Unemployment benefits provide temporary, partial income replacement for Texans who become unemployed or underemployed through no fault of their own. The Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) administers unemployment benefits. You are entitled to benefits if you were laid-off, fired for reasons that are not considered “misconduct” under the Texas Unemployment Compensation Act.
“Misconduct” under the law of unemployment compensation is basically something that the claimant did or failed to do that 1) caused a problem for the company, 2) was in violation of a rule, a policy, or a law, and 3) was within the claimant's power to control or avoid. The official definition of misconduct of the Texas Labor Code is as follows: “’Misconduct means mismanagement of a position of employment by action or inaction, neglect that jeopardizes the life or property of another, intentional wrongdoing or malfeasance, intentional violation of a law, or violation of a policy or rule adopted to ensure the orderly work and the safety of employees,” but “does not include an act in response to an unconscionable act of an employer or superior.”
Generally, you won’t be eligible for unemployment benefits if you quit. There are exceptions. First, if you quit for “good cause” connected with the work, which means a work-related reason that would make an individual who wants to remain employed leave employment. Examples include unsafe working conditions, significant changes in your hiring agreement, and either not getting or difficulty getting agreed-upon pay. Sometimes, you can get unemployment benefits for good reasons that are not related to work, such as for personal medical illness or an injury that prevents you from working, because you are caring for a terminally ill spouse, because you have a documented case of sexual assault, family violence or stalking and you cannot work for that reason, or if you moved with your military spouse.
You should apply for benefits as soon as you become unemployed, because your claim starts the week you complete the application.
For more information, check out http://www.twc.state.tx.us/jobseekers/applying-unemployment-benefits.