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The HR Specialist: Texas Employment Law

Some employers don’t want to hire applicants who haven’t succeeded elsewhere and create a blanket no-hire rule for any applicant who isn’t eligible for rehire by a former employer. If you’re tempted to do the same, make sure you enforce the rule uniformly and don’t make exceptions.

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Texas workers who complained about workplace sexual harassment, religious intolerance, and age and race discrimination collected $2.7 million more in FY 2009 than they did in 2008.

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Employers that don’t take swift action when they learn of possible harassment have only themselves to blame. Being too timid when it comes to punishing the supervisor is not a good idea. Whatever you do, don’t even think about transferring the harassed subordinate into a position with fewer responsibilities. Instead, move the harasser—or even terminate him.

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Here’s a bit of bad news for employers with union-represented employees who are considering going out on strike: A recent 5th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling has struck down a number of picketing permit restrictions passed by local ordinance. The decision’s basis: unions’ right to free speech. The result may be some very public protests by labor unions when disputes spill over.

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If you’re considering hiring inmates through a work-release program, carefully weigh whether you will have to pay them as regular employees under the FLSA, or whether you may be able to pay them less. According to a recent 5th Circuit decision, prisoners specifically sentenced to hard labor may not be covered by the FLSA. Their employers may pay them less than minimum wage, and they’re not eligible for overtime pay.

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Employees sometimes gripe rather generally about working conditions. If those complaints don’t relate to some specific allegation based on protected characteristics like sex, age, national origin or the like, courts probably won’t consider the complaint protected activity that sets up a retaliation lawsuit.

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Don’t worry too much about having a perfectly cordial workplace. As long as the workplace is relatively harmonious, courts won’t step in, as the following case shows.

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A former city of Freeport HR director has sued the municipality and one of its administrators for defamation and retaliation, and is charging that she was paid less than a male co-worker. Minette Ashley filed suit in Brazoria County District Court after City Manager Jeff Pynes fired her and then accused her of bias.

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The city of North Richland Hills will pay $75,000 to a former employee to settle a suit claiming that the worker was forced to resign after being continually taunted that he was too old to do his job. The lawsuit said city workers repeatedly ridiculed Robert Coffman, saying he was too old to keep up, that he made too much money and that he should quit.

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The U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division has settled a lawsuit against an Irving-based engineering and construction firm for failing to pay employees assigned to cleanup crews following Hurricane Katrina. The overtime award to the workers: $1 million. Under a consent judgment, Fluor Enterprises, which was the general contractor with FEMA, will pay 154 workers.

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