The HR Specialist: Texas Employment Law

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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Even if someone else in the management hierarchy actually terminates an employee, a supervisor who’s seemingly had it in for the employee can still cause a world of legal headaches for the employer. This is the so-called “cat’s paw” legal theory, which holds that employers are liable if they approve a recommendation that is based on illegal motives such as retaliation.

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The EEOC recently filed suit against AHD Houston, claiming that Mary Bassi, a waitress at Cover Girls strip club, was fired because of her age. The federal agency brought suit against the strip club’s parent company, arguing that Bassi was fired and replaced by younger servers even though she was popular with customers …

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Employers often get into trouble when they punish someone who has filed an internal harassment or discrimination complaint. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t discipline employees for legitimate reasons just because they filed an unrelated complaint. The key is being able to show a good reason for your actions.

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Employees who are fired have little to lose and everything to gain by filing a discrimination lawsuit. That’s why you should be prepared to show exactly why you terminated an employee and how the punishment fit the crime—especially if others kept their jobs after similar violations.

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Some fired employees, unable to move on, file multiple lawsuits against their former employers. If that happens to you, take heart. Courts are starting to drop these cases early. They’re even beginning to consider sanctions against employees’ attorneys.

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Law instructor Rosanne Platt has filed an EEOC and Texas Workforce Commission Civil Rights Division lawsuit against her former employer, the St. Mary’s University School of Law. Platt alleges that her contract was not renewed after her husband filed a lawsuit against the San Antonio law school.

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A federal district court judge in Texas was recently sentenced to 33 months in prison for lying about allegations that he sexually abused his secretary.

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