What Is Considered Associational Discrimination in Texas?

In this blog, we often talk about the various types of Texas employment discrimination claim an employee can bring against their employer. For the most part, discrimination claims come up when an employer takes some type of adverse employment action against an employee based on their protected status. Adverse employment actions include firing, failing to promote, transferring, or failing to hire a prospective employee. According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the protected classes are race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy, gender identity, and sexual orientation), national origin, age, disability, and genetic information.

It is important for Texas employees to realize federal law protects them from discrimination based on their own membership in a protected class as well as based on their association with members of a protected class. This is called associational discrimination. An example of associational discrimination would be an employer deciding not to hire a prospective employee because that person’s spouse suffers from a serious illness, out of fear the prospective employee would require a lot of unexpected sick days to care for their spouse.

While trial and intermediate appellate courts across the country agree associational discrimination is a legitimate claim of discrimination, the United States Supreme Court has not defined the standard. Neither has the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. However, the Fifth Circuit has implicitly recognized associational discrimination claims. Additionally, Texas federal courts have explicitly adopted a standard for associational discrimination claims. Unless the Fifth Circuit or the U.S. Supreme Court takes a different position, an employee making an associational discrimination claim must establish:

  1. The employee was qualified for the job;
  2. The employee suffered some type of adverse employment action;
  3. The employer knew of the employee’s relationship with a member of a protected class; and
  4. The adverse employment action occurred under circumstances raising a “reasonable inference” that the relationship was a determining factor in the adverse action.

Have You Been a Victim of Discrimination?

If you have recently been a victim of Texas employment discrimination based either on your own membership in a protected class or on your relationships with others who are members of a protected class, contact the law firm of Rob Wiley, P.C. We represent Texas employees in all kinds of employment discrimination claims. To learn more about how we can help you with your situation, call 214-528-6500 to schedule a consultation.

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