To gain protection from retaliation under the opposition to discrimination clause of Title VII (Federal Law) or Chapter 21(State Law), an employee must have opposed conduct made unlawful by those same discrimination laws. However, there might be a question whether the employer reasonably should have understood the employee was opposing such conduct. In Rincones v. WHM Custom Services, Inc., 457 S.W.3d 221 (Tex. App.—Corpus Christi 2015), the plaintiff’s alleged protected conduct consisted of a complaint to the employer that other employees were treated more favorably, even though the plaintiff did not expressly complain about “race” or “national origin” discrimination. The employer was aware that the plaintiff was Hispanic and that the favored employees were not. Therefore, a fact finder might conclude that the employer retaliated against the plaintiff because it understood plaintiff intended a complaint about national origin or race discrimination.
However this is very dangerous for the complaining employee. It is always safer to make sure your complaint is based on illegal discrimination such as race, national origin, color, religion, gender (sex), age or disability. While this case states that if it is obvious you may not have to say the magic words (I am opposing discrimination based on race, national origin, color, religion, gender (sex), age or disability) it is always better to do so. That is why it is always important to seek out the advice from a board certified employment lawyer so that you can not only make sure you say the correct words to protect yourself but that you have evidence that you opposed discrimination. Ten minutes of advice could save your job or make sure you have a legal case of wrongful termination. As an El Paso Texas employment lawyer I often see people who meant to oppose discrimination but failed to use the correct words or to have proof they made a complaint opposing discrimination.