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Houston Employment Law Blog

Men: Is my boss allowed to dictate the terms of my appearance?

Employers have the legal authority to create and enforce dress codes for their employees. However, there are limits on what they can require.

In our last post, we discussed some of the requirements employers can—and can’t—place on female employees regarding their outer appearance. In today’s article, we examine a few such issues that may affect men.

Women: Is my boss allowed to dictate the terms of my appearance?

A lawsuit that has been making headlines recently concerns the so-called “bikini baristas”—coffee shop workers who are required to dress in bikinis on the job. The baristas contend that it is illegal to be required to wear clothing that suggests to customers that they are sexually available.

The court has yet to submit a final ruling in this case. However, the lawsuit raises the question: what say does an employer have in their employees’ appearance? Here is what the law has to say on certain issues concerning the appearance of female workers:

Are you making less money than your male counterparts?

The gap between women’s earning and men’s earnings is worse than commonly believed. Women earned 49 percent of what men earned on average, according to a recent study by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research

Past studies state that women earn an average of 80 cents on the dollar when compared to men’s overall earnings. This may actually be a significant overestimation, according to the 15-year-long study.

Is your employer phasing out sick days?

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More employers are offering work-from-home positions and flexible hours to attract new hires. Not only can working from home help you concentrate on your work, you may be healthier for it. Working from home can save you from sitting in a row of cubicles next to sneezing and sniffling coworkers.

However, with the rise of home office options since the 2008 recession, another shift is arising.

What makes a non-compete agreement enforceable in Texas?

Non-compete agreements can put a lot of strain on employees. Imagine you’ve spent your entire career building experience and skills in your chosen field. When you decide to leave your job, you suddenly discover that your employment contract prevents you from working for a competitor for a full year. During this time, you could lose your professional status and relevant industry knowledge—forcing you to start again at square one.

Non-compete agreements may seem unfair to employees. Unfortunately, in the state of Texas—and most other states—they are legal. However, whether or not a court enforces a non-compete is another matter.

Can federal employees get unemployment during the shutdown?

The partial government shutdown has now entered its second month. During this time, more than 800,000 federal government workers have had to survive without a paycheck.

This would represent an enormous financial hurdle for almost anyone. The majority of Americans live paycheck to paycheck--and 40 percent of the population has less than $400 in savings, in case of emergency. But for some federal employees, the financial strain is greater still--because they're also ineligible for unemployment benefits.

Government shutdown affects employment eligibility verification

It’s been over three weeks since the partial government shutdown began. More than 800,000 federal workers have been furloughed or are working without pay, and many more government contractors on top of that are struggling to get by—indefinitely—without a job.

While much of the media’s focus has been on the impact of the shutdown on these government workers, the suspension of government services is actually impacting people in all walks of life—all across the country. In many companies, employers are facing increased challenges in verifying the eligibility of their new hires.

Texas laws that protect at-will employees from termination

In a previous post, we discussed the at-will employment doctrine--which allows most Texas employers to fire their employees for almost any reason. We also outlined the core federal exemptions to this doctrine.

However, the federal laws only provide baseline protections from wrongful termination. The state of Texas has also instituted its own laws to limit at-will employees' vulnerability to termination. In today's post, we examine the Texas-specific laws that protect employees from unfair termination:

At-will employees: when your boss isn't allowed to fire you

"At-will employment" means that an employer may fire an employee at their own discretion and for virtually any reason. The termination can be without warning, and the employer is not required by law to pay severance to the employee.

Most Texas employees are presumed to be at-will employees. This means that, theoretically, if your boss doesn't like your shoes, they can fire you.

Can you be forced to retire early?

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Employment discrimination based on age is illegal in the U.S., but some say certain jobs are inappropriate for older employees. Unfortunately, too many employers hide behind this excuse.

Is your employer trying to force or coerce you into retiring early? Unexpected early retirement can have serious financial and health risks. Many retirement accounts and Medicare plans have a minimum age requirement. If your employer has attempted to convince you to retire early, it is important to know your legal rights.

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