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Houston Employment Law Blog

What can FMLA do for you?

Sometimes, events occur in life that require you to take more time off work than your sick and/or vacation time allow. The federal government understood this and passed the Family Medical Leave Act. FMLA allows you to take off up to 12 weeks per calendar year for family emergencies, and a Texas employer cannot fire you for it. However, that does not mean that you should run out and ask for this leave just yet. You must meet certain criteria first.

You may qualify for time off under FMLA for the birth, adoption or placement in foster care of a child. You might also be granted such leave while you recover from an illness or injury or take care of an immediate family member (parent, child or spouse). You might also take care of a family member injured while serving in the Armed Forces. FMLA might also be granted if a service member's deployment causes you undue hardship.

What are the salary rules regarding overtime?

When most Texas residents begin a new job, they understand that overtime could be required, either regularly or periodically. For employees who qualify, overtime begins for any hours worked over 40 hours during a typical workweek. The salary rules under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act require employers to pay overtime for these "extra" hours.

The Act requires that the rate for such overtime pay is to be at least one-and-a-half times a particular employee's regular rate of pay, which must not be less than minimum wage. An employee's regular 40 hours of work must be within a week consisting of seven consecutive days. The scheduled workweek does not have to be Monday through Friday in order to qualify.

OSHA frowns on retaliation by employers against whistleblowers

Texas workers should know that federal law provides them with certain protections for whistleblowing. An employer is prohibited from retaliating against an employee for reporting wrongdoing, hazardous work conditions or other violations of the regulations set forth by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Even so, many employees are subjected to retaliation.

Retaliation comes in many forms. A worker could be demoted, denied a promotion or flat out fired. Other forms of retaliatory behavior include blacklisting, intimidation and making threats. Still other actions by employers, managers and supervisors could count as retaliation based on the specific circumstances.

Job termination is not the end of your employee rights

Most people equate the loss of a job with the end of their income, health insurance and other employee rights. Imagine losing your job after more than 10 years of loyal service. How are you going to pay your mortgage or make your car payments? What if it takes months to find another job that offers a comparable salary?

Fortunately, your rights as an employee do not end at the moment your employer terminates your position. For example, you still have the right to pick up your final paycheck. You also have the option to continue your health insurance on your own. In addition, you might be able to file for unemployment benefits or negotiate a severance package with your employer.

Did you sign an invalid non-compete agreement?

When you took the job at the accounting firm, you signed a non-compete agreement. The contract prohibited you from opening your own practice within a 200-mile radius of the firm. In addition, the agreement stipulated that you had to pay the firm $50,000 for any client that left in order to pursue accounting services with you. Now that you are ready to start your own practice, you are worried about the ramifications of the non-compete agreement.

Non-competition agreements are fairly common in certain industries. They typically become effective when an employee's relationship with the company terminates. Employers use these agreements to protect trade secrets and goodwill. However, due to the limitations that these contracts impose, courts tend to have very low opinions of them. Furthermore, courts will look very closely at these agreements when disputes involving non-compete contracts enter the courtroom.

How to Recognize Employee Misclassification

One way for employers to (illegally) avoid paying overtime to employees is to misclassify the employees as salaried instead of hourly workers.

This is a serious problem in Texas workplaces, and employees need to be aware of their rights. If you believe you have been misclassified as exempt (salaried) instead of nonexempt (hourly), you may be entitled to significant compensation for overtime hours.

How to Spot Pregnancy Discrimination in the Workplace

Workplace discrimination takes many forms, and pregnancy discrimination is one of them. However, many women assume that they simply have to endure this type of discrimination, while other women may even be forced to quit their jobs. The reality, though, is that federal law protects women from pregnancy discrimination in the workplace.

To stop pregnancy discrimination, it's important to know what it looks like. Here are some things to be aware of.

Race discrimination lawsuit filed against Fox News Channel

Two workers at a news channel in another state recently claimed that they had endured many years of discrimination due to their race. Thus, these two workers, black women, have filed a lawsuit against their employer, Fox News Channel, alleging race discrimination. The top executive in finance who allegedly harassed them has since been terminated. Racial discrimination is illegal, so those who experience it in the workplace in Texas and elsewhere have the right to explore all of their legal options for righting any wrong that has been committed.

The two women in their lawsuit claimed that their supervisor had spoken about how she feared black people. The supervisor also allegedly humiliated the two women by forcing them to repeat certain words that she felt are often mispronounced by blacks. The woman is also said to have made fun of the movement known as Black Lives Matter.

Race discrimination suit filed against car wash business

A car wash business in another state was recently accused of discriminating against certain employees on the basis of race. A race discrimination lawsuit has thus been filed against the company. According to the suit, the company did not promote black workers to management roles due to their race, which is illegal in the state of Texas and other states.

Several black workers reportedly expressed an interest repeatedly in filling management roles between 2013 and the present time. However, they were turned down for them even though some of them had been with the company since 2003. The company allegedly promoted less experienced and qualified white workers instead.

Sexual harassment suit filed against Elks lodge

A woman in an out-of-state case claimed that she was harassed sexually while on the job. She therefore filed a lawsuit against the company for which she was working, an Elks lodge. However, she recently settled her suit alleging sexual harassment, which is considered illegal conduct in Texas and other states according to federal law.

The woman filed her lawsuit back in 2016. At that time, she claimed that she had been in an events coordinator role between 2011 and 2015, in which she made $100 a month before being fired. The plaintiff asserted that, while working at the lodge, she was harassed by the cook repeatedly. For instance, the cook allegedly gazed at the plaintiff's buttocks and breasts, grabbed her, attempted to kiss her and rubbed against her.

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