The HR Specialist: Texas Employment Law

Nothing is more frustrating than having to spend time and money defending a frivolous lawsuit. But courts are becoming just as frustrated as employers, and are increasingly assessing costs against employees who lose their lawsuits. You can’t get your time back, but at least you can recover some of your money.

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A jury recently awarded $900,000 to a former employee of the Texas Commission on Human Rights, which is responsible for enforcing anti-discrimination laws, for firing her in retaliation for complaining about discrimination against the agency’s own employees.

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Remind managers who feel the need to ask employees sensitive questions to do so only in a private setting. Doing otherwise could trigger a defamation lawsuit.

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Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott has issued an opinion letter that says state lawmakers have the authority to enact legislation sanctioning employers that knowingly hire undocumented workers.

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State Sen. Glenn Hegar has introduced legislation that would allow employees to bring guns to work as long as they stow them in their vehicles in company parking lots. If the bill passes, employers would not be able to prohibit their employees from keeping legally owned firearms and ammunition in their locked vehicles in company parking lots.

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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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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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