Educators, Discrimination and Harassment
Civil rights are those rights
considered to be natural to human beings. They are
guaranteed and protected by our federal and state
constitutions and by laws that have been enacted to
implement them and give them more force. In addition
to the constitutional prohibition against government
infringement on these rights, Congress and the Texas
Legislature have added legal protections against
infringement of civil rights by many private
employers as well.
What do these
rights mean to you?
Employment decisions, including decisions about
hiring, assignment, reassignment, evaluations, salaries
and terminations, may not be made (with rare exception)
on the basis of
- National origin
- Age (if you are 40 or older)
Additionally, your employer may not
retaliate against you for exercising your constitutional
right to speak as a citizen on a matter of public concern.
The courts have found that harassment on the basis of
any protected classification is a form of illegal
discrimination. Although sexual harassment is by far the
most commonly reported form of harassment, other types of
harassment are also illegal.
A. Sexual harassment is unwelcome sexual advances,
requests for sexual favors or verbal or physical contact
of a sexual nature when:
Submission to such conduct is either
implied or stated to be a term or condition of
employment or a factor in the evaluation of the
employee’s performance, ability to be promoted or any
other component of employment.
Such conduct interferes, either directly
or indirectly, with an employee’s work performance by creating a hostile, offensive or
B. Harassment (either through words
or actions) on the basis of race, color, religion,
national origin, age or disability is conduct that is
based upon one of the above protected classifications and
that interferes, either directly or indirectly, with an
employee’s work performance by creating a hostile,
offensive or intimidating environment.
Each school district must have a policy
that tells employees how to report incidences
of illegal harassment and to whom. A school district must take appropriate action
to end the harassment. If discriminatory comments are
being made about you or your class, keep notes on what is
said, when it is said and who says it. If you are being harassed by your
supervisor, you may report the harassment to another
An employer may not take an adverse employment action
against an employee in retaliation for the exercise of a
protected right. Employment actions that may be adverse
include: discharges, demotions, refusals to hire, refusals
to promote and reprimands. Generally, the courts will not
get involved in disputes over actions related to room
assignments, administrative duties, classroom equipment,
employee recognition and teaching assignments.
The government has also enacted laws to
protect employees from retaliation for filing complaints
about alleged illegal discrimination. This includes
complaints brought in a district grievance procedure or
filed with the Texas Commission on Human Rights or the
Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Even if it is
determined that no illegal discrimination took place, the
school district cannot terminate an employee for making
To qualify for protection, you must
exercise your right in an appropriate manner. Talk to the
ATPE Member Legal Services Department before circulating
petitions, handing out religious material or taking other
action that may be controversial.
If you feel that your rights have been violated, there
may be several different ways for you to handle the
situation. Attorneys familiar with public schools and
civil rights laws, like those at ATPE, can help you sort
out your options. Do not delay in seeking legal advice.
All public school employees have the right to talk to
their school district about the conditions of their
employment. If your rights are being violated, the school
district, either through the board or the administration,
may take action to correct the situation and discipline
Local and State Administrative Agencies
The Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) and its local
counterparts are responsible for investigating and
enforcing the state civil rights laws. To file a
complaint, you must fill out a form with a description of
the alleged violations. The commission will then
investigate and rule on your complaint.
Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
This federal agency is responsible for investigating and
enforcing federal civil rights laws. Its jurisdiction
overlaps with that of the TWC. Just as with the TWC, you must submit a form describing the
alleged violations in order to file a complaint.
State and Federal Court
If your complaint cannot be resolved through a grievance
or action by an administrative agency, you may be able to
file a lawsuit seeking damages and other appropriate
remedies. Both state and federal laws include specific mandatory procedures and requirements in
pursuing a legal claim, so you should receive legal advice if you are pursing such an action.
The legal information provided on this website is for general purposes only. It is not intended as a substitute for
individual legal advice or the provision of legal services. Accessing this information does not create an
attorney-client relationship. Individual legal situations vary greatly and readers should consult directly with an
attorney. Eligible ATPE members should contact the ATPE Member Legal Services Department using our
online system, MLSIS.
Back to top