DIA(LEGAL) - EMPLOYEE WELFARE: FREEDOM FROM DISCRIMINATION, HARASSMENT, AND RETALIATION
Note: This policy addresses the prohibition against discrimination, harassment, and retaliation with respect to compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment. For legally referenced material relating to the prohibition against discrimination in hiring and discharging employees, see DAA(LEGAL).
For provisions related to harassment of students, including the district's response to sexual harassment as defined by Title IX, see FFH.
Unlawful Employment Discrimination
It is an unlawful employment practice for a district to discriminate against any individual with respect to his compensation, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment, because of such individual's:
- Race, color, or national origin;
- Disability; or
- Genetic information [see DAB].
Section 1981 of the Civil Rights Act of 1866 (Section 1981)—race. 42 U.S.C. 1981
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII)—race, color, religion, sex, and national origin. 42 U.S.C. 2000e et seq.
Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA)—age, over 40. 29 U.S.C. 621 et seq.
Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Section 504)—disability in programs receiving federal funds. 29 U.S.C. 794
Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA)—disability. 42 U.S.C. 12101 et seq.
Title II of the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008 (GINA)—genetic information. 42 U.S.C. 2000ff et seq.
Note: Title VII, the ADA, and GINA do not apply to employers unless the employer has 15 or more employees for each working day in each of 20 or more calendar weeks in the current or preceding calendar year. 42 U.S.C. 2000e(b); 42 U.S.C. 12111(5); 42 U.S.C. 2000ff(2)(B)
Texas Commission on Human Rights Act (TCHRA)—race, color, disability, religion, sex, national origin, age, and genetic information. Labor Code 21.051, .402
State policy on employment of persons with disabilities. Human Resources Code 121.003(f)
Prohibition on Retaliation
A district may not discriminate against any employee or applicant for employment because the employee or applicant has opposed any unlawful, discriminatory employment practices or participated in the investigation of any complaint related to an unlawful, discriminatory employment practice. 29 U.S.C. 623(d) (ADEA); 42 U.S.C. 2000e-3(a) (Title VII); 42 U.S.C. 12203 (ADA); Labor Code 21.055
Harassment on the basis of a protected characteristic is a violation of Title VII. A district has an affirmative duty, under Title VII, to maintain a working environment free of harassment on the basis of sex, race, color, religion, and national origin. 42 U.S.C. 2000e, et seq.; 29 C.F.R. 1604.11(a), 1606.8(a)
Unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature constitute sexual harassment when:
- Submission to such conduct is made either explicitly or implicitly a term or condition of an individual's employment;
- Submission to or rejection of such conduct by an individual is used as the basis for employment decisions affecting such individual; or
- Such conduct has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual's work performance or creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive working environment.
Where employment opportunities or benefits are granted because of an individual's submission to the employer's sexual advances or requests for sexual favors, the employer may be held liable for unlawful sex discrimination against other persons who were qualified for but denied that employment opportunity or benefit.
29 C.F.R. 1604.11(a), (f), (g); Labor Code 21.141
An employer commits an unlawful employment practice if sexual harassment of an employee occurs and the employer or the employer's agents or supervisors know or should have known that the conduct constituting sexual harassment was occurring; and fail to take immediate and appropriate corrective action. Labor Code 21.142
Same-sex sexual harassment constitutes sexual harassment. Oncale v. Sundowner Offshore Services, Inc., 523 U.S. 75 (1998)
Criminal Offense—Official Oppression
A public servant acting under color of the public servant's office or employment commits an offense if the public servant intentionally subjects another to sexual harassment.
A public servant acts under color of the public servant's office or employment if the person acts or purports to act in an official capacity or takes advantage of such actual or purported capacity.
"Sexual harassment" means unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, or other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature, submission to which is made a term or condition of a person's exercise or enjoyment of any right, privilege, power, or immunity, either explicitly or implicitly.
Penal Code 39.03(a)(3), (b), (c)
A district commits an unlawful employment practice if sexual harassment of an unpaid intern occurs and the district or its agents or supervisors know or should have known that the conduct constituting sexual harassment was occurring, and fail to take immediate and appropriate corrective action. Labor Code 21.1065
Prohibition on Use of Public Funds
A district may not use public money to settle or otherwise pay a sexual harassment claim made against a person who is an elected or appointed member of the board or an officer or employee of the district. Local Gov't Code 180.008
National Origin Harassment
Ethnic slurs and other verbal or physical conduct relating to an individual's national origin constitute harassment when this conduct:
- Has the purpose or effect of creating an intimidating, hostile or offensive working environment;
- Has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual's work performance; or
- Otherwise adversely affects an individual's employment opportunities.
29 C.F.R. 1606.08(b)
Severe and Pervasive
Harassment violates Title VII if it is sufficiently severe and pervasive to alter the conditions of employment. Pennsylvania State Police v. Suders, 542 U.S. 129 (2004)
Title VII does not prohibit all verbal and physical harassment in the workplace. For example, harassment between men and women is not automatically unlawful sexual harassment merely because the words used have sexual content or connotations. Oncale v. Sundowner Offshore Services, Inc., 523 U.S. 75 (1998)
A district should take all steps necessary to prevent unlawful harassment from occurring, such as affirmatively raising the subject, expressing strong disapproval, developing appropriate penalties, informing employees of their right to raise and how to raise the issue of harassment under Title VII, and developing methods to sensitize all concerned. 29 C.F.R. 1604.11(f)
Responsibility for Harassment by Third Parties
A district is responsible for acts of unlawful harassment by fellow employees and by nonemployees if the district, its agents, or its supervisory employees knew or should have known of the conduct, unless the district takes immediate and appropriate corrective action. 29 C.F.R. 1604.11(d), (e), 1606.8(d), (e)
When no tangible employment action is taken, a district may raise the following affirmative defense:
- That the district exercised reasonable care to prevent and promptly correct any harassing behavior; and
- That the employee unreasonably failed to take advantage of any preventive or corrective opportunities provided by the employer or to avoid harm otherwise.
Burlington Industries, Inc. v. Ellerth, 524 U.S. 742 (1998); Faragher v. City of Boca Raton, 524 U.S. 775 (1998)
The prohibition against discrimination on the basis of religion includes all aspects of religious observances and practice, as well as religious belief, unless a district demonstrates that it is unable to reasonably accommodate an employee's or prospective employee's religious observance or practice without undue hardship to the district's business. "Undue hardship" means more than a de minimus (minimal) cost. 42 U.S.C. 2000e(j); 29 C.F.R. 1605.2; Labor Code 21.108
Burden on Free Exercise
A district may not substantially burden an employee's free exercise of religion, unless the burden is in furtherance of a compelling governmental interest and is the least restrictive means of furthering that interest. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code 110.003
The prohibition against discrimination because of sex includes discrimination on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions. A district shall treat women affected by pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions the same as other employees for all employment-related purposes, including receipt of benefits under fringe benefit programs. 42 U.S.C. 2000e(k); 29 C.F.R. 1604.10; Labor Code 21.106
Gay and Transgender
The prohibition against discrimination because of sex includes discrimination on the basis of an individual being gay or transgender. Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia, 17-1618, 2020 WL 3146686, (U.S. June 15, 2020)
A district may not evaluate employees by assuming or insisting that they match the stereotype associated with their group. Price Waterhouse v. Hopkins, 490 U.S. 228 (1989)
The prohibition against discrimination on the basis of age applies only to discrimination against an individual 40 years of age or older. 29 U.S.C. 631; Labor Code 21.101
Bona Fide Employee Benefit Plan
A district may take an employment action on the basis of age pursuant to a bona fide seniority system or a bona fide employee benefit plan. However, a bona fide employee benefit plan shall not excuse the failure to hire any individual and no such benefit plan shall require or permit the involuntary retirement of any individual because of age. 29 U.S.C. 623(f); Labor Code 21.102
A district may not discriminate against a qualified individual on the basis of disability in job application procedures, hiring, advancement, or discharge of employees, compensation, job training, and other terms, conditions, and privileges of employment. 42 U.S.C. 12112(a); 29 C.F.R. 1630.4(b); Labor Code 21.051
In addition, each district that receives assistance under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) must make positive efforts to employ, and advance in employment, qualified individuals with disabilities in programs assisted by the IDEA. 34 C.F.R. 300.177(b)
Discrimination Based on Lack of Disability
The ADA and the TCHRA do not provide a basis for a claim that an individual was subject to discrimination because of the individual's lack of disability. 42 U.S.C. 12201(g); 29 C.F.R. 1630.4(b); Labor Code 21.005(c)
Definition of Disability
- An actual disability: a physical or mental impairment [see definition, below] that substantially limits one or more of an individual's major life activities;
- A record of having such an impairment; or
- Being regarded as having such an impairment.
An impairment that substantially limits one major life activity need not limit other major life activities in order to be considered a disability. An impairment that is episodic or in remission is a disability if it would substantially limit a major life activity when active.
"Regarded as" Having an Impairment
An individual meets the requirement of being "regarded as" having an impairment if the individual establishes that he or she has been subjected to an action prohibited by the ADA because of an actual or perceived physical or mental impairment whether or not the impairment limits or is perceived to limit a major life activity.
Transitory and Minor
The "regarded as" prong of the definition does not apply to impairments that are transitory or minor. A transitory impairment is one with an actual or expected duration of six months or less. The "transitory" exception does not apply to the "actual disability" or "record of disability" prongs of the definition.
The determination of whether an impairment substantially limits a major life activity shall be made without regard to the ameliorative effects of mitigating measures, such as medication, medical supplies, low-vision devices, prosthetics, hearing aids, mobility devices, oxygen therapy, assistive technology, or learned behavioral or adaptive neurological modifications.
The ameliorative effects of ordinary eyeglasses or contact lenses shall be considered in determining whether an impairment substantially limits a major life activity. Ordinary eyeglasses and contact lenses are lenses that are intended to fully correct visual acuity or to eliminate refractive error.
42 U.S.C. 12102(1), (3), (4); 29 C.F.R. 1630.2(g), (j)(1); Labor Code 21.002, .0021
Physical or Mental Impairment
"Physical or mental impairment" means:
- Any physiological disorder or condition, cosmetic disfigurement, or anatomical loss affecting one or more body systems, such as neurological, musculoskeletal, special sense organs, respiratory (including speech organs), cardiovascular, reproductive, digestive, genitourinary, immune, circulatory, hemic, lymphatic, skin, and endocrine; or
- Any mental or psychological disorder, such as an intellectual disability (formerly termed "mental retardation"), organic brain syndrome, emotional or mental illness, and specific learning disabilities.
29 C.F.R. 1630.2(h)
Major Life Activities
"Major life activities" include caring for oneself, performing manual tasks, seeing, hearing, eating, sleeping, walking, standing, sitting, reaching, lifting, bending, speaking, breathing, learning, reading, concentrating, thinking, communicating, interacting with others, and working.
"Major life activities" also include the operation of major bodily functions, including functions of the immune system, special sense organs and skin, normal cell growth, and digestive, genitourinary, bowel, bladder, neurological, brain, respiratory, circulatory, cardiovascular, endocrine, hemic, lymphatic, musculoskeletal, and reproductive functions. The operation of a major bodily function includes the operation of an individual organ within the body system.
42 U.S.C. 12102(2); 29 C.F.R. 1630.2(i); Labor Code 21.002
"Qualified individual" means an individual who:
- Satisfies the requisite skill, experience, education, and other job-related requirements of the employment position such individual holds or desires; and
- With or without reasonable accommodation, can perform the essential functions of such position. Consideration shall be given to a district's judgment as to what functions of a job are essential. A written job description prepared before advertising or interviewing applicants for the job is evidence of the job's essential functions.
42 U.S.C. 12111(8); 29 C.F.R. 1630.2(m)
A district is required, absent undue hardship, to make a reasonable accommodation to an otherwise qualified individual who meets the definition of disability under the "actual disability" or "record of disability" prongs. A district is not required to provide a reasonable accommodation to an individual who meets the definition of disability solely under the "regarded as" prong. 42 U.S.C. 12112(b)(5); 29 C.F.R. 1630.2(o)(4), .9; 29 U.S.C. 794; 34 C.F.R. 104.11; Labor Code 21.128 [See DBB regarding medical examinations and inquiries under the Americans with Disabilities Act]
"Reasonable accommodation" includes:
- Making existing facilities used by employees readily accessible to and usable by individuals with disabilities; and
- Job restructuring, part-time or modified work schedules, reassignment to a vacant position, acquisition or modification of equipment or devices, appropriate adjustment or modification of examinations, training materials or policies, the provision of qualified readers or interpreters, and other similar accommodations for individuals with disabilities.
42 U.S.C. 12111(9); 29 C.F.R. 1630.2(o); 34 C.F.R. 104.12(b)
"Undue hardship" means an action requiring significant difficulty or expense when considered in light of the nature and cost of the accommodation needed, overall financial resources of the affected facility and the district, and other factors set out in law. 42 U.S.C. 12111(10); 29 C.F.R. 1630.2(p); 34 C.F.R. 104.12(c)
Discrimination Based on Relationship
A district shall not exclude or deny equal jobs or benefits to, or otherwise discriminate against, a qualified individual because of the known disability of an individual with whom the qualified individual is known to have a family, business, social, or other relationship or association. 42 U.S.C. 12112(b)(4); 29 C.F.R. 1630.8; 34 C.F.R. 104.11
Illegal Drugs and Alcohol
The term "qualified individual with a disability" does not include any employee or applicant who is currently engaging in the illegal use of drugs, when a district acts on the basis of such use.
A district is not prohibited from conducting drug testing of employees and applicants for the illegal use of drugs or making employment decisions based on the results of such tests.
42 U.S.C. 12114(c), (d); Labor Code 21.002(6)(A) [See DHE]
The term "qualified individual with a disability" does not include an individual who is an alcoholic and whose current use of alcohol prevents the employee from performing the duties of his or her job or whose employment, by reason of such current alcohol abuse, would constitute a direct threat to property or the safety of others. 42 U.S.C. 12114(a); 29 U.S.C. 705(20)(C); 29 C.F.R. 1630.3(a); 28 C.F.R. 35.104; Labor Code 21.002(6)(A)
It is unlawful for a district to use qualification standards, employment tests, or other selection criteria that screen out or tend to screen out an individual with a disability or a class of individuals with disabilities, on the basis of disability, unless the standard, test, or other selection criteria, as used by the district, is shown to be job related for the position in question and is consistent with business necessity. 29 C.F.R. 1630.10(a)
Direct Threat to Health or Safety
As a qualification standard, a district may require that an individual not pose a direct threat to the health or safety of other individuals in the workplace. "Direct threat" means a significant risk to the health or safety of the individual or others that cannot be eliminated by reasonable accommodation. 42 U.S.C. 12111(3); 29 C.F.R. 1630.2(r); Labor Code 21.002(6)(B)
Vision Standards and Tests
A district shall not use qualification standards, employment tests, or other selection criteria based on an individual's uncorrected vision unless the standard, test, or other selection criteria, as used by the district, is shown to be job-related for the position in question and consistent with business necessity. 42 U.S.C. 12113(c); 29 C.F.R. 1630.10(b); Labor Code 21.115(b)
A district may refuse to assign or continue to assign an individual to a job involving food handling if the individual has an infectious or communicable disease that is transmitted to others through handling of food. 42 U.S.C. 12113(e); 29 U.S.C. 705(20)(D); 29 C.F.R. 1630.16(e); Labor Code 21.002(6)(B)
A district that is subject to the jurisdiction of Title I of the ADA (employment discrimination) or to Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act (employment discrimination) shall comply with the reasonable accommodation requirements of those laws with respect to service animals. [See Reasonable Accommodations, above]
A district that is not subject to either Title I or Section 504 shall comply with Title II of the ADA (discrimination by public entity). An employer that is subject to Title II shall comply with 28 C.F.R. Part 35, including the requirements relating to service animals at 28 C.F.R. 35.136 [see FBA].
28 C.F.R. 35.140
No person, on the basis of sex, shall be excluded from participation in, denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination by a district receiving federal financial assistance. 20 U.S.C. 1681 [See FB, FFH]
A district may not pay an employee at a rate less than the rate the district pays employees of the opposite sex for equal work on jobs the performance of which require equal skill, effort, or responsibility and which are performed under similar working conditions. This rule does not apply if the payment is pursuant to a seniority system, a merit system, a system that measures earnings by quantity or quality of production, or a differential based on any other factor other than sex. 29 U.S.C. 206(d) (Equal Pay Act); 34 C.F.R. 106.54 (Title IX)
A district that receives federal financial assistance and that employs 15 or more persons shall adopt grievance procedures that incorporate appropriate due process standards and that provide for the prompt and equitable resolution of complaints alleging any action prohibited by Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. 34 C.F.R. 104.7(b), .11
A district that employs 50 or more persons shall adopt and publish grievance procedures providing for prompt and equitable resolution of complaints alleging any action that would be prohibited by the ADA. 28 C.F.R. 35.107, .140
A district that receives federal financial assistance shall adopt and publish grievance procedures providing for prompt and equitable resolution of employee complaints alleging any action prohibited by Title IX. 34 C.F.R. 106.8(c); North Haven Board of Education v. Bell, 456 U.S. 512 (1982) [For legally referenced material relating to Title IX grievance procedures, see FFH(LEGAL).]
A district that employs 15 or more persons shall designate at least one person to coordinate its efforts to comply with Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act. The district's Section 504 notification [see DAA] shall also identify the responsible employee so designated. 34 C.F.R. 104.7(a), .8(a)
A district that employs 50 or more persons shall designate at least one employee to coordinate its efforts to comply with and carry out its responsibilities under the ADA, including any investigation of any complaint communicated to it alleging its noncompliance with the ADA or alleging any actions that would be prohibited by the ADA. The district shall make available to all interested individuals the name, office address, and telephone number of the employee or employees so designated. 28 C.F.R. 35.107(a)
A district shall designate at least one employee to coordinate its efforts to comply with and carry out its responsibilities under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), including investigation of any complaints that the district receives alleging any actions that are prohibited by the ADEA. A district shall notify its employees of the identity of the responsible employee by name or title, address, and telephone number. 34 C.F.R. 110.25(a), (b)
A district must designate and authorize at least one employee to coordinate its efforts to comply with its responsibilities under Title IX, which employee must be referred to as the "Title IX Coordinator." The district must notify applicants for admission and employment, students, parents or legal guardians, employees, and all professional organizations holding professional agreements with the district of the name or title, office address, electronic mail address, and telephone number of the employee(s) so designated. 34 C.F.R. 106.8(a)