The HR Specialist: Texas Employment Law

Don’t let fear of litigation allow one or two supersensitive employees to squash reasonable criticism and destroy workplace morale. Take, for example, an employee who happens to be a member of a protected class (e.g., race, gender or disability) and always seems to believe that supervisors are singling him out …

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Do you have safeguards to protect confidentiality while you conduct internal investigations of sexual harassment and other employee complaints? If not, you should. If an employer is careless and allows word of the allegations to get out to people who have no reason to know about them, the employer may face defamation claims …

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A year and a half ago, the Texas Supreme Court clarified whether employers may require new and existing employees to sign noncompete agreements without changing their at- will status. The court concluded they can—as long as the employer provides proper consideration in return …

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Q. We had to fire a good worker because of absenteeism problems. When someone who wants to hire him calls to verify past employment, what can we say about this man? …

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Q. I own a home-health agency. Although my licensed vocational nurses are paid by the visit, my registered nursing staff is considered management. They are salaried. Are we lawfully required to pay our RNs “on-call” pay or mileage? Although it’s not documented as such, we have taken these things into consideration when setting their salaries …

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The former financial secretary and treasurer of Local 738 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, located in Longview, has pleaded guilty to embezzling more than $40,000 over a three-year period …

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Starbucks recently settled a lawsuit brought by assistant store managers who had accused the coffee company of denying them overtime wages in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act. Judge Keith Ellison of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas approved the settlement …

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Not every organization has a formal program for handling internal promotions. Some rely strictly on supervisor recommendations and employees’ expressions of interest to identify candidates. That can lead to big trouble if supervisors can’t later articulate who wanted a promotion and why they recommended (or declined to recommend) an employee for a new job …

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Employees know that their employers can’t retaliate against them for filing EEOC complaints, complaining about discrimination or engaging in otherwise protected activity. However, it doesn’t follow that employees are free to taunt their supervisors by pulling the protected-activity card …

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Texas contract law grants great leeway to employers that create incentive payment plans, especially when it comes to how employers calculate what payment is due employees. Essentially, if the incentive plan says the employer has the right to interpret the agreement language and its decision is final and binding, courts won’t interfere unless the employer interprets it in bad faith …

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