The HR Specialist: Texas Employment Law

It’s natural to ask questions when you learn someone at work is going to have a baby. But it’s quite another thing when pregnancy-related questions come from supervisors. It’s best to let HR handle any leave requests and the like. Otherwise, you just might find your questions interpreted as anti-pregnancy bias if you end up having to fire a pregnant employee.

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A former manager at Tyler Roofing Co. recently filed suit against the company, claiming that his employment was terminated because he missed work to receive cancer treatments. He sued for disability discrimination and violations of the FMLA in the Eastern District of Texas.

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Employee theft is a huge problem, and employers are sometimes tempted to make an example of a thief. They hope to discourage other employees from stealing. It’s a bad idea, because the alleged thief may sue for defamation. Instead, keep the information as confidential as possible.

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If an employee asks to be reclassified from nonexempt to exempt, make sure you carefully look at her position to determine her proper classification. If you have a legitimate reason for your classification decision, chances are she won’t be able to win a claim that you discriminated when you refused to reclassify her as an exempt employee.

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A recent report offers some ominous news for Texas employers. Texas is one of eight states that saw an increase in class-action wage-and-hour cases filed in state court last year, according to the Seyfarth Shaw law firm’s new Workplace Class Action Litigation Report.

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Clearly, there is no fury like that of a woman scorned—especially one unfairly passed over for promotion. Officer Tina Lewallen filed a complaint with the Beaumont Police Department after two men were promoted to the narcotics unit ahead of her. When the department failed to investigate the complaint, Lewallen sued …

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Back in 2004, Grimes County Auditor Sidney “Buck” LaQuey took a shine to Bridgette Massey, whom he hired to work in his office—even though she had no auditing experience. Eventually, Massey filed an EEOC complaint in 2006, followed by a lawsuit in 2007, alleging sexual harassment and retaliation …

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On Jan. 26, the U.S. Supreme Court once again expanded the ability of employees to sue for retaliation. The court held that an employee who answers a question about a fellow employee’s improper conduct during an internal sexual harassment investigation is engaging in “protected activity” under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.

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Employees can sue if they believe they have been discriminated against based on their national origin. But what if the employee’s family has been in the United States for generations, and she speaks without any discernable accent or speech pattern common to another nationality and looks all-American? Can she still claim national-origin discrimination?

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Here’s a warning for managers or supervisors being investigated for sexual or other harassment: If they falsely accuse an alleged victim of lying, the victim may be able to sue the manager or supervisor for defamation. And that could mean personal liability for the boss if a jury believes the alleged victim.

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