202 – Discrimination in the Workplace

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I.             Purpose

Discrimination, the harassment of employees, the existence of a hostile work environment, or retaliation are unacceptable at the Harris County Sheriff’s Office because they go against our core values. The purpose of this policy is to establish directives for maintaining a work environment free of these negative qualities  and outline the procedures for reporting, investigating, and providing resolution when these problems occur.

II.           Definitions

Discrimination – Unfair treatment or denial of normal privileges to persons because of their race, color, religion, sex, sexual or gender orientation, national origin, age, disability, religion, pregnancy, or veteran status.

Harassment –

Harassment is unwelcome conduct that is based on race, color, religion, sex (including sexual orientation, gender identity, or pregnancy), national origin, age (beginning at age 40), disability, or genetic information (including family medical history). Harassment becomes unlawful where 1) enduring the offensive conduct becomes a condition of continued employment, or 2) the conduct is severe or pervasive enough to create a work environment that a reasonable person would consider intimidating, hostile, or abusive.

Offensive conduct may include, but is not limited to, offensive jokes, slurs, epithets or name calling, physical assaults or threats, intimidation, ridicule or mockery, insults or put-downs, offensive objects or pictures, and interference with work performance. Being instructed to perform job duties in and of itself is not harassment, even if the job duties may be difficult or unpleasant. Not all job assignments within the HCSO are considered pleasant or enjoyable. Furthermore, many job assignments are difficult.

Hostile Work Environment –

A hostile work environment is created when harassing or discriminatory conduct, as defined above, is so severe and pervasive it interferes with an individual’s ability to perform their job; creates an intimidating, offensive, threatening or humiliating work environment; or causes a situation where a person’s psychological well-being is adversely affected.

Whether an environment is objectively hostile or abusive is determined by considering the totality of the circumstances. See Harris v. Forklift Sys., Inc., 510 U.S. 17, 23, 114 S. Ct. 367, 126 L. Ed. 2d 295 (1993). Although no single factor is required, courts look to (1) the frequency of the discriminatory conduct, (2) its severity, (3) whether it is physically threatening or humiliating as opposed to a mere offensive utterance, (4) whether it unreasonably interferes with an employee’s work performance, and (5) whether the complained-of conduct undermines the plaintiff’s workplace competence. See Hockman v. Westward Commc’ns, LLC, 407 F.3d 317, 325-26, 122 Fed. Appx. 734 (5th Cir. 2004).

Mere utterance of an epithet which engenders offensive feelings in an employee does not sufficiently affect the conditions of employment to create a hostile work environment. See Harris, 510 U.S. at 21. Conduct must be extreme to amount to a change in the terms and conditions of employment. See Faragher v. City of Boca Raton, 524 U.S. 775, 788, 118 S. Ct. 2275, 141 L. Ed. 2d 662 (1998).

Retaliation –

Retaliation occurs when an employer (through a manager, supervisor, administrator or director) fires an employee or takes any other type of adverse action against an employee for engaging in protected activity. An individual engages in protected activity when they: (1) oppose a practice they consider to be discriminatory, (2) participate in an employment discrimination proceeding, or (3) engage in other protected equal employment opportunity related activity.

An adverse action is an action affecting the terms of employment such as demotion, denial of employment, or termination which would dissuade a reasonable employee from raising a concern about a possible violation or engaging in other related protected activity.

III.          Policy

It is the policy of the Harris County Sheriff’s Office to insure all employees have the right to work in an environment free of all forms of harassment. The HCSO will not tolerate, condone, or otherwise allow any form of harassment by their employees, sworn, civilian, or any other person conducting business with this agency.

IV.          Prohibited Conduct

A.           Prohibited Activity

1.            Employees will not make offensive or derogatory comments to any person, either directly or indirectly, based on race, color, religion, sex, sexual or gender orientation, national origin, age, disability, or veteran status. Such harassment is a prohibited form of discrimination under state and federal employment law and Sheriff’s Office Policy.

2.            No employee will either explicitly or implicitly ridicule, mock, deride or belittle another employee.

B.           Retaliation

1.            Retaliation against an employee for filing a harassment or discrimination complaint, or for assisting, testifying or participating in the investigation of such complaint, is illegal and prohibited by this agency and law. Being disciplined for failure to perform job duties in and of itself is not retaliation.

2.            Retaliation is a form of misconduct. Evidence of retaliation will be considered a separate violation of this policy. [Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and Texas Commission of Human Rights.]

C.           Discrimination: Discrimination against employees and applicants is prohibited. This provision applies to all terms and conditions of employment and all personnel actions, including, but not limited to: hiring, placement, promotion, termination, transfer, status, classification, compensation, and training.

D.           Harassment: This agency prohibits any form of unlawful employee harassment. Inappropriate interference with the ability of any employee to perform his or her expected job duties is not tolerated. No employee may harass or create an intimidating or hostile working environment for any other employee.

V.           Compliance

A.           Compliance with Laws: This agency and employees will comply with, state and federal laws relating to equal employment practices.

B.           EEOC / Texas Commission on Human Rights

1.            All employees should cooperate with representatives of the EEOC and the Texas Commission on Human Rights in matters pertaining to employment practices.

2.            Employees who are contacted by representatives of EEOC or the Texas Commission on Human Rights in connection with an investigation of a charge of discrimination will notify HR of all such contacts.

VI.          Complaint Procedures

A.           Employees are encouraged to bring to the attention of the HR director any situation they are aware of, directly or indirectly, which they feel may constitute discrimination or harassment and may violate any law regulating fair employment practices.

B.           Employees may also bring such a situation to the attention of any supervisor, but that supervisor will make the HR director aware of the situation as soon as possible.

1.            Such action on the part of an employee, supervisor, or the HR director will not be considered a violation of chain of command.

2.            Such situation should be recorded in a signed statement. The form will be made available from the HR office.

C.           Internal inquiries or investigations relating to charges of employment discrimination, harassment, or unfair employment practices will be conducted by the Internal Affairs Division.

VII.         Accommodations and Statement

A.           Accommodation: Employees who require accommodations applicable to state and federal laws must submit the request in writing and provide documentation of the necessitating condition to the HR director.

B.           Statement of Equal Opportunity: The HCSO intends to hire and employ qualified personnel without regard to race, national origin, color, religion, sex, sexual or gender orientation, age, or disability. The goal of HCSO is to have a workforce reflective of the ethnic makeup of the community we serve.


This policy has been revised on the below listed dates:

April 21, 2009

November 13, 2013

October 6, 2015

February 28, 2017

July 13, 2021

June 1, 2024

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