Many employers here in Houston have had fraternization policies in order to prevent office romances from developing, as well as to curb sexual harassment. Such policies typically bar managers or supervisors from spending time with their employees outside of the workday, or require workers of the same level to report dating relationships to their supervisors, although each policy may be different. A lawsuit that was recently filed against a Dallas-based company accused it of taking a no-fraternization policy a bit too far.
The company, a law firm, is accused of having a policy that prevented men and women from being alone together in or out of the office. One former employee of the law firm is now suing it, arguing that the policy keeps women from advancing within the law firm. The segregated culture of the workplace, according to the lawsuit, prevents female employees from having the same opportunities as male employees.
The lawsuit has been filed under the Texas Commission on Human Rights Act, which prohibits employers from having policies or making decisions that negatively affect employees on the basis of their gender.
The plaintiff believes that the no-fraternization policy is meant to keep sexual harassment at bay, and she compares this to a company segregating white and black employees in order to prevent racial harassment.
The law firm has denied the claims.
While we do not know all of the details of this case, in some cases company policies do have the affect of harming one particular gender, race, or another protected class. In these cases, it is often possible to hold the employer accountable under federal or state employment law. In this day and age, discrimination is rarely obvious and upfront as it was in many workplaces in previous decades. But, discrimination does still exist in the workplace, often in the form of policies or workplace procedures that result in a discriminatory barrier to advancement.
Source: AOL, "Texas Employer Barred Men And Women From Being Alone Together, Suit Claims," Claire Gordon, April 9, 2013
- Our employment law firm in Houston helps victims of discrimination seek to hold their employers accountable.