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The HR Specialist: Texas Employment Law

Here’s an easy way to avoid unnecessary litigation: If you are disciplining an employee for missing too much work, don’t tie absences to a disabled relative’s condition. If you do, you may end up losing an association discrimination case.

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There’s a fine line between spelling out expectations and unduly controlling exactly how contractors and subcontractors do their jobs. If you use too heavy a hand, those workers you consider to be independent contractors can morph into employees. And that can mean expensive litigation.

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Under some limited circumstances, employers may be obligated to suggest reasonable accommodations for struggling workers who have obvious disabilities that appear to interfere with their ability to perform essential job functions. But that’s really only true for em­­ployees whose disabilities are obvious and limit the employee’s ability to speak up for himself.

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The U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear appeals of rulings that declared two of the nation’s most far-reaching anti-­immigrant statutes unconstitutional. The towns of Farmer’s Branch, Texas, and Hazleton, Pa., had adopted ordinances punishing landlords who rented to “illegal immigrants.” The Hazle­­ton ordinance also targeted employers that hired illegals.

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Some employers end up overpaying for time worked when, for example, employees continue to draw a paycheck while home on some sort of leave. But if you happen to face an FLSA lawsuit over unpaid overtime, don’t expect the court to let you credit those overpayments when it’s time to compensate unpaid overtime hours.

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A federal court has concluded that Texas state employees who take FMLA leave for their own serious health conditions can’t later sue their state agency over that leave. That’s because Texas has sovereign immunity from such claims.

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Employees don’t have the right to decide which directions they must follow. Unless there are clearly extenuating reasons (safety concerns, for example), you can and should discipline workers who refuse to cooperate.

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Some employers mistakenly believe that having employees work on a contractual basis will save them from litigation. If they decide not to renew the contracts of workers considered “trou­­blemakers,” they figure they can avoid being sued. That’s a big mistake.

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The city of McAllen seems to be turning a page with the departure of an assistant city manager. The official had previously filed a sexual harassment complaint against a former city manager who retired in March.

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On June 19, declaring that “pub­­lic employees do not renounce their citizenship when they accept employment,” the U.S. Supreme Court held that the First Amend­­ment protects a public employee’s truthful sworn testimony, compelled by subpoena.

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