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  • Writer's pictureRic Armstrong

What Employers Should Know About Texas Age Discrimination Laws

Both federal and state laws offer robust protections for employees aged 40 and older. Today’s blog article explores potential age discrimination by Texas companies, highlighting key points for employers to be aware of.

The Legal Landscape

The primary legal framework protecting employees from age discrimination in Texas includes:

  • Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA): This federal law prohibits employers with 20 or more employees from discriminating against individuals based on age in all aspects of employment.

  • Chapter 21 of the Texas Labor Code: This state law offers similar protections to the ADEA, but applies to employers with 15 or more employees.

While both laws share common ground, there are some subtle differences. For instance, the ADEA allows for certain limited exceptions, such as bona fide occupational qualifications (BFOQs). However, the Texas Labor Code does not offer such exceptions.

Understanding "At-Will" Employment

Despite Texas' "at-will" employment doctrine, which allows employers to terminate employees for any reason (except for illegal reasons), it does not supersede the ADEA or the Texas Labor Code. In other words, employers cannot use "at-will" employment as a justification for age discrimination.

Prohibited Actions

Under both federal and state laws, age discrimination can manifest in various forms, including:

  • Hiring: Refusing to hire someone solely based on their age.

  • Firing: Terminating an employee's employment due to their age.

  • Compensation: Offering lower pay, benefits, or opportunities for advancement based solely on age.

  • Promotion: Denying promotions to qualified employees solely based on their age.

  • Training: Excluding older employees from training opportunities necessary for advancement.

  • Job assignments: Assigning older employees less desirable tasks or responsibilities based solely on their age.

Burden of Proof and Remedies

The burden of proving age discrimination lies with the employee. However, once the employee establishes a prima facie case, the burden shifts to the employer to demonstrate a legitimate, non-discriminatory reason for the challenged action. If an employee successfully proves age discrimination, they may be entitled to various remedies, including:

  • Back pay and benefits

  • Reinstatement to their previous position

  • Front pay (lost future wages)

  • Emotional distress damages

  • Punitive damages

  • Attorney's fees

Preventing Age Discrimination

To avoid costly lawsuits and create a more inclusive workplace, Texas companies should take proactive steps to prevent age discrimination, such as:

  • Developing and implementing a clear and written policy against age discrimination.

  • Providing regular training to employees and managers on recognizing and preventing age discrimination.

  • Conducting regular audits of employment practices to identify and address any potential age bias.

  • Documenting all employment decisions thoroughly and objectively.

  • Creating a culture of respect and inclusion where employees feel comfortable reporting any suspected age discrimination.

Age discrimination in Texas companies is a serious issue with potentially significant consequences for both employees and employers. By understanding the legal framework, recognizing the prohibited actions, and implementing proactive preventative measures, Texas companies can create a more equitable and inclusive workplace for employees of all ages.

If you have any questions about how you can protect your company against charges of age discrimination, contact our firm today for a consultation.

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