Despite a sea change in American attitudes toward racism and sexism, it’s an unfortunate fact of life that some employers haven’t gotten the memo and continue to discriminate against women and minorities. This might be the result of unconscious bias or inadequate efforts at encouraging diversity, but it still poses a problem for job applicants in Texas and across the nation.
A recent example involves Sysco Central Texas, Inc., a regional subsidiary of wholesale food distributor Sysco, Inc. The company settled with the Office of Federal Contract Compliance after a routine compliance evaluation found that Sysco discriminated against 180 female and 190 Black job applicants at its New Braunfels distribution center over the course of two years. In a related case, discrimination was also found to affect approximately 800 applications at a Sysco facility in Lewisville.
If you believe you’re a victim of hiring discrimination, you can file a claim with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) or the Civil Rights Division of the Texas Workforce Commission, depending on whether you’re alleging a violation of federal or state law. You may not sue unless the EEOC or state Civil Rights Division issues you a “right to sue” letter after conducting an investigation of your claims.
In order to prove your hiring discrimination case, you must demonstrate that you weren’t hired for a job for which you were qualified because of your membership in a class legally protected from discrimination. Bias based on race or national origin, sex, age, religion and other specific personal characteristics is prohibited by law. If your prospective employer claims it had a legitimate reason for not hiring you, you must prove that the alleged reason was merely a pretext for illegal discrimination against you.
If you win, the defendant may be required to pay you any wages and benefits you didn’t receive because you weren’t hired, as well as damages to compensate you for your emotional distress and attorney fees. If the company’s actions were egregious, it might also be liable for punitive damages. The court could even order the defendant to hire you and impose an injunction against discriminatory hiring practices. In its settlement, for instance, Sysco Central Texas agreed to pay $154,000 in back wages to the applicants, to hire some of them and to revise internal training and policies to avoid future discrimination.
To have the best chance to win, you should hire an employment discrimination attorney as soon as you suspect bias. Your lawyer will help collect the evidence you need to prove your case and prepare a complaint on your behalf. The same attorney can represent you in settlement discussions, administrative hearings, or in court if you receive your right to sue letter.
Located in Houston, the Law Offices of David C. Holmes represents job applicants rejected for discriminatory reasons. To schedule a free initial consultation, please call 713-586-8862 or contact us online.