Q. We know that it is unlawful to discriminate against employees on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, sex, age and disability. Do any other protected classifications exist under Texas law that might limit an employer’s right to terminate a worker employed at will?
A. Yes. Employers are prohibited from discriminating or retaliating against employees for several other reasons, including:
- Filing a workers’ compensation claim (if the employer has workers’ compensation insurance)
- Voting for or against a particular candidate or not revealing how he or she voted (note that employees must be allowed to vote)
- Being called to jury service
- Reporting any complaint under the Hazard Communication Act
- Reporting to law enforcement instances of abuse of residents at nursing home facilities
- Reporting a violation of law (where the employer is a state or local government)
- Refusing to submit to a pre-hire AIDS test, or refusing to disclose the results of an AIDS test
- Complying with a subpoena
- Refusing to commit a criminal act.
This is not an exclusive list, but shows that even though Texas is an at-will state, there are a number of ways a fired employee can characterize a termination to raise questions about its legality.