The HR Specialist: Texas Employment Law

Last October, the Texas Supreme Court ruled employers may require new and existing employees to sign covenants not to compete, even if they are “at will” employees. As long as the employees get something in return for agreeing to the restrictions their employers want, the agreements are legal

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Q. Must I give employees copies of their reviews, terminations or disciplinary items? They are in their personnel files, but I don’t want them running to an attorney. We are not terminating or disciplining employees with any illegal intent, but these days you can never be too careful. –A.D.

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Q. I have to admit I am not a fan of smokers, but what really concerns me is the cost they are adding to our benefits programs. I don’t think it is fair to the nonsmokers that their costs should keep going up year after year when it’s likely smokers are fueling a part of that cost. Can I make smokers pay more in premiums?—S.S.

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If you regularly hire “casual” workers for short assignments, it’s a good idea to keep careful track of the assignments you offer. You should monitor and record how many assignments each worker accepts and rejects …

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Q. In this morning’s mail I received a letter from some group I have never heard of, asking for payroll information on an employee. The letter said, “This information is necessary to enforce court-ordered child support.” It does not say that it is a subpoena or a garnishment, and there is no court order or any kind of a waiver from the employee. I have already tossed it in the trash, but I don’t want to do something wrong. Do I need to dig it out?—S.W.

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As soon as an employee makes it known that he needs accommodations, it’s up to the employer to start an interactive accommodations process, even if it turns out that no accommodation is possible …

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A Dallas jury recently returned a unanimous verdict awarding $18.9 million to the widow of Gordon Rutherford. The negligence and recklessness suit resulted from a January 2003 explosion at TXI Inc. …

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Make sure your hiring managers understand that basing hiring decisions on the prejudices of your customer base is a sure way to land in court. Applicants’ race, age, sex or religion should always be irrelevant. Courts won’t be swayed by claims that customer preferences forced your hiring hand …

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The mantra in real estate is “location, location, location.” But the mantra in employee discipline must always be “consistency, consistency, consistency” …

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Several statutes protect pregnant employees from discrimination and retaliation. But those laws don’t guarantee employees’ permanent job security …

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