The HR Specialist: Texas Employment Law

Many employers believe that if an employee needs accommodations for a disability that’s related to the same serious health condition covered by the FMLA, they don’t have to provide any additional leave once the employee has used 12 weeks of FMLA leave. That’s not always true. In fact, additional unpaid leave after FMLA leave has been exhausted may be a reasonable accommodation under the ADA.

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The Equal Pay Act (EPA) makes it illegal to base unequal pay on gender. Employees have up to three years to sue after the last allegedly discriminatory paycheck if their employer’s violation was “willful,” and two years if it was not. Unfortunately, any obvious wage disparity is probably willful.

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Texas is an at-will employment state, which means employers are free to fire employees for any nondiscriminatory reason unless an employment agreement or union contract specifically says otherwise. But what if an employer promises an employee a better schedule or that she’ll be retained for a specific period of time? Does that create a contract, thus jeopardizing at-will status?

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Do you have a progressive disciplinary system? Don’t short-circuit it!

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OSHA last month announced it has issued $237,500 in proposed penalties against a Big Springs oil refinery accused of cutting corners on safety. The fines will be levied against Alon USA after an OSHA inspection found numerous safety violations.

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Greater Metroplex Interiors, a Southlake drywall and light construction company, has agreed to settle claims that it fired a female employee in retaliation for her complaints about sexual harassment and gender discrimination.

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Make a note every time you take disciplinary action against an employee. You need documentation that explains why each employee was punished.

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Employees who complain about alleged discrimination by a supervisor can set up a retaliation claim if they are disciplined or otherwise punished shortly after complaining. Relying solely on the say-so of the boss the employee initially complained about may cause trouble if that supervisor’s reasons are flimsy.

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Sometimes, employers have to fire employees—even those who have recently filed successful discrimination complaints. Don’t be afraid to do so. You can beat a bogus retaliation claim by making sure you have good, solid documentation to substantiate the firing.

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An Alice-based oil field services company has settled a reverse race discrimination lawsuit filed by the EEOC. The commission filed the suit in 2008 on behalf of Bert Yaklin, a white parts-department employee of Coil Tubing Services, which supports the petroleum industry in Texas and Louisiana.

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