The HR Specialist: Texas Employment Law

Here’s something to add to your regular training sessions for managers and supervisors. Warn them against making age-related comments. These can backfire, even if they aren’t intended to be ageist or demeaning to anyone.

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Here’s some good news for those worried about absolute fairness in discipline: You have more latitude than you may think. Courts will use another employee’s lighter discipline as discrimination evidence only if the two employees being compared committed offenses of “comparable seriousness,” which generally means their wrongdoing was “nearly identical.”

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Under the newly enacted Texas Uniform Trade Secrets Act, you will have more recourse when someone misappropriates your intellectual property. Starting Sept. 1, this new statute provides companies with greater protection for their trade secrets and expands the available legal remedies to address actual and anticipated harm.

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Gov. Rick Perry has signed legislation providing important protections for employers facing negligent hiring or supervision claims. The new law also makes it more attractive for ­employers to hire applicants with criminal records.

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A frequent tactic for employees who have used FMLA leave and who are fired around the same time is to allege that they were terminated for taking FMLA leave. But those claims fall apart if the person making the termination decision didn’t know about the leave. That’s reason enough to limit access to FMLA leave information to those who need to know.

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Here’s a twist in discrimination law that you might never consider. If a co-worker rivalry for an open position includes threats by one worker to quit if the other is promoted and the rivalry is based on sex bias, you may face a lawsuit if you accede to the threat. That’s what happened in one recent case that made its way to the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals.

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Supervisors can and should be held to a higher standard when it comes to enforcing workplace rules. That includes punishing a supervisor who harasses a subordinate more harshly than a co-worker who harasses a colleague.

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A former Port Arthur chemical company president has pleaded guilty to occupational safety crimes in federal court. The former head of Port Arthur Chemical and Environmental Services admitted to violating OSHA by allowing a driver to haul a load so toxic it killed him.

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When someone claims age discrimination, he typically has to show that he was replaced by someone “significantly younger.” What that means is unclear—and courts seem in no hurry to come up with a hard-and-fast rule.

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Have you recently hired or promoted younger applicants into management positions? Do they supervise older employees? If so, be sure to include age discrimination warnings in your training sessions. All too often, younger employees may make statements that older workers interpret as biased.

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