When you have been discriminated against or discharged based on an unlawful reason, such as your age, gender, race, national origin, a disability, religion, or retaliation for having complained about one of these things, which matters are prohibited by both federal law (Title VII) or Texas state law (Texas Labor Code Ch. 21), then the law requires that you file a complaint with either the EEOC or Texas Workforce Commission Civil Rights Division (TWCCRD). Unless you go through this “doorway”, a court will have no jurisdiction to allow you to sue. These agencies must first investigate your complaint for at least 180 days and then they can grant you what is called a “right to sue” letter. After the letter is issued, you then have 90 days to sue in Federal Court on your federal charges or 60 days to sue in Texas state court on your state charges. Also, you must file your complaint with the EEOC within 300 days of the discrimination to eventually sue under federal law and you must file within 180 days to sue under Texas law. Failure to meet these deadlines is almost always fatal to your suit. There are strategic reasons why you might want to sue under federal or state law. Sometimes federal courts are more hostile to employee’s suits and are more likely to dismiss your case on summary judgment; but, this is not always the case. Also, in age discrimination claims Texas law allows for the recovery of mental anguish damages, but, federal age discrimination law does not. Sometimes the venue (the place where suit is filed) might be better in federal court than in Texas state court. All of these matters need to be carefully considered by a lawyer experienced in this area. The preliminary actions in filing the claim with the agencies and filing suit are littered with traps for the unwary and must be carefully navigated.
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