The HR Specialist: Texas Employment Law

Specialty Painting & Wall Covering and M&S Enterprises, both in Nie­­der­­land, have paid 22 painters and drywall installers $108,783 in overtime back wages following a U.S. Labor Department Wage and Hour Divi­­sion investigation.

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Public employees have some workplace protections based on constitutional rights to free speech and association. But those rights don’t extend to the right to be part of a co-worker clique.

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A recent study of EEOC ADA en­­force­­ment actions has revealed that Texas employers paid out $9.7 million to employees in 2013. That’s up sharply from $5.4 million in 2009.

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Some employees don’t take discipline well. What may have started as a reprimand over a rule violation or poor work can quickly escalate for one of these workers. Don’t be afraid to increase the disciplinary consequences if the em­­ployee won’t cooperate or accept correction.

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Here’s something to remember when planning your sexual har­­assment training sessions for management: Be sure everyone understands that they must report any sexual har­­assment complaints employees make—even if the employees don’t follow the procedures for reporting sexual harassment laid out in the employee handbook or company policies.

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Here’s something to consider if a discharged disabled employee who simply could not do her job sues, alleging disability discrimination. Check to see if she has applied for disability benefits and get a copy of the application. If she didn’t qualify her disability by claiming she could perhaps do some work if reasonably accommodated, she may have killed her chances to argue she was qualified for her old position, too.

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You discipline an employee for a serious rule violation, perhaps by firing the employee. Because you had good reasons for discharging the employee, you may think that you can’t be sued for discrimination. That’s not necessarily true.

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Employees who complain about alleged discrimination, either to their employer or to an agency such as the EEOC, are protected from retaliation. Ordinarily, that re­quires a so-called adverse employment action like discharge or demotion. Lesser actions, such as a lateral transfer, don’t count.

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The IRS has begun to examine the tax treatment of employer-provided free meals, such as those famously provided by Silicon Valley tech firms like Google.

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Travis Transit Management of Austin has agreed to pay 600 current and former employees $655,000 to settle charges it unilaterally changed employee health, retirement and other benefits when it began providing bus service for Austin’s Capital Metro in 2012.

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