The HR Specialist: Texas Employment Law

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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Fourteen companies based in Texas have made Fortune magazine’s 2009 “100 Best Companies to Work For” list. Five Dallas/Fort Worth area firms made the list …

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A Houston manufacturing company has paid $1.6 million in back wages to 1,751 employees after a federal investigation revealed the company violated the federal overtime labor law.

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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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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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