It is extremely common for employers to establish the first thirty, sixty, or ninety days as a probationary period. Employers do this to set the expectation that they are “test driving” an employee. Although employers can terminate employees (at least non-union employees or those who do not work under an employment contract) any time, companies have concerns about paying unemployment benefits and discrimination claims.
By setting the expectation they can terminate you upfront for any reason (or no reason at all) during that “probationary” period it makes it difficult to receive unemployment benefits or prove that an employee was terminated illegally. If your employer fires you during your first ninety days you should consider scheduling a consultation with an employment lawyer to discuss whether a possible claim exists.
Probation and wrongful termination for discrimination in Texas
Employers may not terminate an employee for any illegal reason. This includes both outright discrimination and discrimination covered by a legitimate reason. For example, an employer may decide to release a woman employee because she doesn’t “fit in” with the predominately male environment and took offense to sexual jokes during lunch. That is an example of discrimination if the company fires her as not a good fit with coworkers. Sometimes employers will refer to this person as a troublemaker for complaining.
To change the hypothetical, let’s say the same woman employee takes offense at sexual jokes and the boss sees her as a possible source of problems if she complains to HR. He knows he can’t fire her for getting offended by the jokes without getting himself in trouble. When she shows up a few minutes late, days later, he fires her for being tardy during the probationary period. Although it was legitimate to terminate her for tardiness, the underlying reason was discrimination on the basis of sex.
If there is both legitimate and discriminatory reason for termination, employment law will support the legitimate reason if independently legitimate. So looking at our hypothetical, tardiness is the legitimate reason but we need to see if it is independent. In most cases we would look at other employees tardy during the probationary period and see what discipline followed. If we find other employees tardy but not fired, then it suggests the legitimate reason was a pretextual. If we find this boss always fires new employees who are tardy then it is probably legitimate. Therefore, the courts would not provide relief to our hypothetical employee. Keep in mind that these situations are fact specific. If you have been fired within your probationary period you should still consider scheduling a consultation with an employment lawyer to determine if you have a possible claim.
Texas employment lawyers for wrongful termination
Although the probationary period may make it more difficult to prove discrimination or other illegal action against new employees, it does not make it is impossible to prove. If you believe your employer violated your employment rights, speak to an employment attorney. Visit the Texas employment law page to learn more about your employee rights in Texas.