What is the relationship between the EEOC and the TWC?

Both state and federal laws prohibit discrimination, and both state and federal agencies enforce those laws. However, which agency should an employee file a complaint to? How do the two bodies overlap and interact?

In Texas, the default rule is that an employer can fire an employee at any time for any reason. This is called employment-at-will. However, certain federal and state statutes place limitations on the employment-at-will doctrine by prohibiting employment discrimination, preventing employers from basing their employment decisions—hiring, firing, promoting, and paying—on an employee belonging to a protected class. Protected classes are listed in various statutes. For example, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination based on race, sex, religion, or national origin. The Americans with Disabilities Act prohibits discrimination based on an employee’s disability. Similarly, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act protects employees over the age of 40 from discrimination.

Texas has adopted the Texas Commission on Human Rights Act (TCHRA) as a state version of federal employment statutes. The TCHRA protects employees from discrimination based on race, color, disability, religion, sex, national origin, age, or genetic information. It was intended to provide Texans with the same rights that are provided in federal employment discrimination statutes.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is the federal administrative agency responsible for enforcing federal employment discrimination statutes: Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act. The Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) is the state agency tasked with enforcing the TCHRA. It has authority over claims of employment discrimination occurring in Texas.

Because the state and federal laws overlap, the EEOC and the TWC have a unique relationship. By statute, the TWC acts as a deferral agency—that is, the EEOC can defer complaints of employment discrimination to the TWC. The two agencies also have an annual contract in place that governs their relationship.

This work sharing agreement allocates responsibilities and resources between the EEOC and the TWC. Because of the relationship, an employee only needs to file one charge. Generally, whichever agency receives the charge is the agency that investigates and resolves the complaint. Lastly, the EEOC can review a final action by the TWC within 15 days if a complainant requests it. However, the determination of the TWC receives a heavy measure of deference from the EEOC.