Workplace discrimination is illegal under both federal and Texas state laws. Under federal laws, workers cannot be treated unfairly in the workplace on the basis of age, gender, race, religion, national origin, disability or genetic information. Additionally, it is illegal for employers to give any weight to these classifications when it comes to promotions or firing and hiring decisions.

When employers violate these laws they can be held responsible. Just last week, BP Exploration and Production Inc. said it will pay $5.4 million to settle allegations that the company discriminated against women when hiring temporary laborers for cleanup efforts after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010.

BP and its contractors will pay the money to women from Texas, Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi and Florida who had applied for jobs during the response effort. The settlement came after the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission launched an investigation in response to accusations that the company had discriminated against women.

BP reportedly settled before the EEOC was able to complete its investigation.

The EEOC said in a media statement that even in times of crisis, civil rights must be respected. The fact that BP was in an extreme hurry to hire people for the cleanup efforts thus would not excuse any discriminatory hiring practices.

Those who feel they have experienced workplace discrimination are wise to talk with an employment law attorney. It is often important to seek legal recourse for discrimination not only to resolve the situation, but also to hold an employer accountable and ensure that discrimination does not continue in the workplace.

Source: The New Orleans Times-Picayune, “BP agrees to $5.4 million settlement of complaints of gender bias in oil spill cleanup hiring,” Mark Schleifstein, June 28, 2012.