The HR Specialist: Texas Employment Law

Texas Workforce Commission Chairman Tom Pauken of Dallas recently announced that Texas employers should expect their unemployment insurance taxes to rise significantly next year. Pauken said the increase in layoffs is close to exhausting a state trust fund.

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When the person who hires someone is the same one who conducts the firing, courts typically discount the idea that discrimination was involved. After all, why would someone who hired an applicant discriminate later because of that person’s age, race or sex? But be aware that the defense doesn’t always work if there is clear discrimination evidence.

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Terminations aren’t always clean. Sometimes they’re damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don’t situations. That’s often so when you conclude that an employee harassed another and must be terminated. With nothing to lose, the fired employee may try to concoct a discrimination lawsuit.

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Be careful if you transfer an employee who filed a discrimination complaint to another position. Even if the new job provides the same benefits and pay, it may look like retaliation if the position comes with fewer advancement opportunities.

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Here’s another reason to act fast when an employee says a co-worker has sexually harassed her: Employers that act quickly seldom lose sexual harassment lawsuits if their action stops the harassment.

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Rosanne Piatt, an instructor at St. Mary’s University School of Law, recently filed a charge of discrimination with the EEOC and the Texas Workforce Commission Civil Rights Division. She claims the university discriminated against her on the basis of her age and gender.

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The owner and two managers of a Houston-based used clothing exporting business were recently sentenced to prison for conspiring to harbor illegal immigrants. During a raid at Action Rags USA Inc. last year, ICE agents arrested 166 undocumented workers from Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras.

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Texas’ Third Court of Appeals in Austin recently upheld a jury’s order that Carl Yeckel, the former president of the board of directors at the Carl B. & Florence E. King Foundation, give up $5.3 million in excess compensation that he and other board members allegedly authorized for themselves.

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Employees who qualify as “disabled” under the ADA have the right to reasonable accommodations to allow them to perform the essential functions of their jobs. But choosing those accommodations requires an “interactive process” between employer and employee. Employers that rush to judgment about the alleged disability or the accommodation request will risk legal trouble.

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It’s easy enough to do. While calculating an employee’s remaining FMLA leave, you make a mistake and tell the employee he has to return by a certain day when in fact his leave expires earlier. How can you fix the problem if you discover it while the employee is out on leave? Just let him know that you made a calculation mistake and give him the correct information—before he has to return.

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