The HR Specialist: Texas Employment Law

On Jan. 29, President Obama signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which may be the most important change in anti-discrimination laws in decades. It applies to all pending compensation-related lawsuits, but limits back pay to two years. Employers can look ahead to many years of legal wrangling over the interpretation of the seven key words of the act: “a discriminatory compensation decision or other practice.”

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Here’s yet another good reason to closely review employee compensation: Legislation overturning the U.S. Supreme Court decision in the Lilly Ledbetter case has been enacted. Employees will now be able to sue their employers for any discriminatory pay decisions made years ago that still show up in current paychecks.

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Before firing any employee who has filed a harassment complaint, make sure your reasons are solid—and extremely well documented. That means checking to make sure supervisors followed company rules. Ensure that other employees with similar records were also fired. And be sure all documentation you are relying on was clearly created before the discrimination complaint.

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Employees may assume that, just because they hold the same job title as another employee, they should receive the same pay. But the label an employer assigns to a job isn’t nearly as important as the job duties performed by the person holding the job.

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A Beaumont-area Victoria’s Secret employee recently filed suit in Jefferson County District Court alleging she was discriminated against because of her pregnancy. Krystal Burns brought her suit under Title VII, the Pregnancy Discrimination Act and the Texas Labor Code.

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The city of Grand Prairie recently agreed to settle for $150,000 in a retaliation suit brought by a firefighter who says top brass objected when he tried to protect a co-worker from harassment.

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When we think of class-action lawsuits, we usually think big. Such lawsuits can involve thousands of employees and millions of dollars. But they can also involve just a handful of employees, as a federal judge just ruled.

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Some government employees have a “protected property” interest in their jobs. Others are at-will employees. Those with high-level jobs are typically at-will employees.

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Add another big company to the list of those accused of shorting employees for overtime pay. A sales representative who worked for anti-virus software publisher McAfee recently filed suit claiming it violated the FLSA by failing to pay him overtime.

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Employees who are promised they can take “FMLA leave” may have a claim against an employer even if it turns out the company isn’t required to comply with the FMLA because it has fewer than 50 employees. Employees can argue that the employer misled them, and that the company should therefore be required to comply with the FMLA.

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