The HR Specialist: Texas Employment Law

The success of your organization depends on hiring the right people. You spend a lot of time and effort determining the company’s needs and designing job descriptions that meet those needs. Don’t let a potential discrimination lawsuit ruin all that hard work. Instead, make the hiring process as transparent as possible …

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You know you can’t go easy on one person for attendance problems and come down hard on another for the same offense—especially if he or she belongs to a protected class. But, as the following case shows, courts will conclude a discipline process wasn’t discriminatory if you can show that tardiness or absenteeism affected important work goals, such as productivity …

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Sometimes, employees who have complained about real or imagined discrimination look for evidence that they’re being punished for complaining. Then, when something happens at work that may be completely unrelated to the complaint (e.g., a missed raise because of budget constraints or job cuts due to business cycles), they cry retaliation. Your best protection is to keep detailed records of all pay increases and merit payments …

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Not everyone who has a diagnosed psychiatric condition is disabled and entitled to protection under the ADA. Before you authorize reasonable accommodations or allow a psychiatric condition to become an excuse for poor performance, decide whether the condition rises to the level of a covered disability …

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When an employee claims discrimination, HR should make sure that employee isn’t retaliated against. But retaliation is more than lost promotions, discharge or demotions. Retaliation can be any employer-initiated action that would deter a reasonable person from complaining. That’s why it’s crucial for HR to let supervisors and managers know they shouldn’t change anything about the employee’s working conditions without HR approval …

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Do you routinely keep unfilled positions open and posted? If so, consider removing them until your organization plans to actively recruit to fill them. Otherwise, an employee who is disgruntled for not having been promoted may see the posting and try to argue that he or she is being retaliated against for prior complaints …

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Good news: The Texas Supreme Court has refused to create new liability for organizations that do work through independent contractors. The case points out how important it is to make sure independent contractors stay that way …

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Pregnant Texas employees are protected from discrimination under the Texas Commission of Human Rights Act (TCHRA). The TCHRA prohibits sex discrimination and makes it an “unlawful employment practice if because of … sex … the employer discharges an individual.” It also defines sex discrimination to include “discrimination because of or on the basis of pregnancy.” …

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A Houston-based seismic technology and equipment company is facing a nearly $1 million jury verdict as the result of a lawsuit brought by one of its former manufacturing managers. Input/Output terminated Gaines Watkins in 2002 when he was 68 years old, claiming the company was making changes that he was “incapable or unwilling” to implement. Watkins sued, claiming he was fired because he didn’t fit the company’s new youthful image …

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Employers at a post-Hurricane Katrina job site recently agreed to settle a lawsuit brought by the family of a Texas construction worker who died while doing repair work at a warehouse in Louisiana. Bobby Patton was working on a hurricane-damaged roof when he fell through an unmarked skylight to the concrete floor …

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