The HR Specialist: Texas Employment Law

No doubt you have been warned many times that the best way to avoid discrimination lawsuits involving discipline is to treat everyone alike. The assumption is that by always being fair and punishing the same behavior, rule violation or poor performance the same, no one can argue that they were demoted, suspended or fired because of their protected status. But there is a situation in which you can—and probably should—treat some employees more strictly as a class.

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The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that settling a state court lawsuit over a noncompete agreement (with a payment and an agreement that supposedly included all employment claims) didn’t bar the former employees from suing for unpaid overtime that they claimed was owed to them under the Fair Labor Standards Act.

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A federal judge has ordered the Houston-based United Bible Fellowship Ministries to pay a former employee nearly $75,000 in back pay and damages because of the nonprofit’s policy prohibiting pregnant employees from working and barring the hiring of pregnant women.

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Not every action that may be interpreted as harassment actually is. That doesn’t mean employers should ignore a one-time incident or behavior brought to HR’s attention. You can and should end any behavior that may be perceived as offensive or harassing. Once you have, you can move on, as this recent Texas Supreme Court decision shows.

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A new NLRB rule that will make it easier for unions to organize a work site has been upheld as a valid exercise of the NLRB’s regulatory authority.

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In March, the Texas Senate passed legislation allowing holders of concealed handgun licenses to carry holstered handguns in plain view. In April, the Texas House of Representatives passed H.B. 910, its version of the “open carry” law.

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Omaha, Nebraska-based Skinner Bakery will rehire six workers and pay more than $112,000 in back pay at its Paris, Texas, facility following a National Labor Relations Board ruling.

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Courts are losing patience with employees who act as their own lawyers in discrimination cases but don’t complain to the EEOC before filing lawsuits. A federal court recently gave such a pro se litigant just 15 days to prove she had first gone to the commission.

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Public employees have the right to speak their minds on matters of public importance without punishment. However, that right is clearly limited. A public employee can’t claim that free speech includes the right to use derogatory terms at work.

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When budgets for raises are lean, it’s tempting to reward employees with a better title than a hefty pay increase. That’s risky.

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