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Houston Employment Law Blog

Workplace sexual harassment is broader than you might expect

You may think that workplace sexual harassment refers to inappropriate touching of a woman in the workplace. However, the definition of sexual harassment is actually much broader than that—and there are laws in place to protect workers against sexual harassment at all levels.

In today’s post, we outline what all is considered sexual harassment under the law—and it might surprise you.

Am I really a contractor or an employee?

Independent contractor jobs are becoming increasingly common. They’re cheaper for an employer than hiring employees—as contractors are exempt from overtime pay as well as health and vacation benefits. However, simply labeling a worker as an independent contractor isn’t sufficient to actually classify them as such. There are certain traits that distinguish an employee from an independent contractor.

Sometimes, employers misclassify their workers as independent contractors in order to create a cost savings for the company. Studies show that as much as 30 percent of employers make this mistake—which impacts millions of workers nation-wide.

Are gender roles keeping men from speaking out against sexism?

The fight to eliminate sexism in the workplace is a cause that has historically been championed by women. Recently, more working men have joined the chorus of voices declaring, “enough is enough.”

For many of these men, their support for women has not been well received by other males. The reason for this reaction may stem from the very strict gender roles that our society is forced to conform to. At least, that is the suggestion from a recent study.

You have rights in the workplace if you are pregnant

When you are pregnant and working, you have the right for your employer to treat you the same as any other employee. The same applies when you take time off due to pregnancy.

The United States Equal Opportunity Commission classifies pregnancy as a temporary disability and requires employers to treat their pregnant employees the same as other temporary disabled workers. However, a study shows close to 31,000 claims of pregnancy discrimination were filed between 2010 and 2015.

How your employer’s retaliation could benefit you in the long run

As a worker in the U.S., you’re entitled to basic protections such as to receive fair pay, to be treated without discrimination and to have basic health and safety protections in the workplace. If your employer does not uphold such protections, you have the right to make a legal claim against them.

However, some companies use fear and intimidation tactics to keep their employees in place. A worker in such an environment may worry about facing retaliation if they speak out against the company’s wrongdoing.

Spotify accused of pervasive gender discrimination

Last week, the music streaming service Spotify came under attack, with allegations of systematic gender discrimination within the company’s U.S. sales team. The plaintiff, Hong Perez, was a sales executive at Spotify. She has filed a lawsuit with the Supreme Court of New York, alleging gender discriminatory behavior by numerous high-ranking executives within the organization.

According to the lawsuit, female employees across the board receive lower pay and less company equity than their male counterparts in equivalent positions.

SCOTUS rules in favor of employers on overtime exemption

The U.S. Supreme Court recently made a key ruling that may have a ripple effect in future overtime disputes. The case involved a car dealership in California and five of its employees, who work as service advisors. The lawsuit arose when the dealership refused to pay these employees overtime pay.

Section 13(b)(10)(A) of the Fair Labor Standards Act expressly states that auto mechanics, auto sales people and auto parts dealers are exempt from overtime pay. The question was whether auto service advisors also fell under this category. The Court found that the job responsibilities of service advisors are similar to other jobs in this category, and therefore these employers should have the same exempt status designation.

Can I get paid time off of work to vote?

The mid-term elections are just around the corner. Polling places will be open from 7:00 a.m. until 7:00 p.m. If you’re an employee who works long shifts, this timeframe may leave you with insufficient time to vote. What are your legal rights surrounding your ability to cast your ballot?

Time off on Election Day

Dealing with sexual harassment at the Main Street level

Sexual harassment is illegal. It is against federal and state law. It is sad to think that anyone needs to be reminded of this, but it does since illegal behavior continues. Hollywood actresses make up the cadre of victims that may have brought the spotlight to bear on this issue, and it is now reportedly gaining attention from Wall Street deal makers, but the fact is that every day, on Main Streets across Texas and elsewhere, women, and men, can be targets.

Indeed, the case of a Texas-based restaurant franchise in New Mexico seems to serve as a case in point. According the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, managers and co-workers of Ojos Locos Sports Cantina in Albuquerque allegedly subjected female employees to sexual harassment and job retaliation. The agency is suing on behalf of the women seeking back wages and damages.

Does the 12-week period of leave under FMLA renew every year?

The United States lags behind much of the developed world when it comes to letting employees take leave from work for personal illness or family emergencies. Many countries require some paid leave when personal health or family emergencies require it.

Texas has no statute in this regard. Several federal laws contain provisions for such breaks. Chief among them is the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) which allows individuals to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave within a 12-month period. It's that last stipulation that can create a lot of confusion. And, of course, where confusion exists, legal disputes often result. So, here we will try to provide some clarity.

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