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The HR Specialist: Texas Employment Law

Employers are free to create reasonable rules for submitting job applications and make potential employees follow those rules. As long as your rules aren’t enforced in a way that favors one group of applicants over others, courts will let you reject an applicant for failing to follow those rules.

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When people have a history of conflict, it makes sense to ensure they don’t have to interact with one another. How you go about separating them may mean the difference between staying out of court or losing a costly successful retaliation or discrimination lawsuit.

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Most employers have severe cases of “juryphobia.” They assume that a jury will automatically side with an employee and award hundreds of thousands of dollars to right an alleged wrong. If you and your attorneys are convinced you didn’t do anything wrong, it may be best to trust a jury to hear the case and come to the same conclusion. That’s what one employer recently did.

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Employers can’t retaliate against employees for engaging in so-called protected activities. But figuring out what is protected can be hard. Your best bet: Assume any complaint is protected.

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You may think an employee who sues for discrimination after filing an EEOC complaint can include only so much in the ensuing lawsuit. That’s not necessarily true.

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Thirteen employees recently filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the city of Dallas, claiming they were the victims of racial discrimination while working for Dallas Water Utilities. In addition to claiming that they endured racial slurs and degrading drawings, the workers say they were passed over for promotions in favor of less qualified white workers.

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Rife Industrial Marine, a Nederland company that builds oil rigs, has agreed to pay $401,355 in back wages to 567 welders and laborers engaged in offshore construction. A DOL investigation found that the company incorrectly classified some pay as reimbursements for employee travel expenses and failed to pay overtime on those wages.

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A British company recently agreed to pay about $400,000 in back overtime pay for violating Texas labor laws. Nearly 500 contracted construction and technical workers and engineers working for the American branch of Scotland-based RBG Limited accused the company of improperly compensating them under both federal and state laws.

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Recent workplace shootings in Orlando, Fla., and Fort Hood serve as powerful reminders that employers must heed signs that an employee could act out and harm co-workers or supervisors. There were 768 violence-related deaths in the workplace in 2008. Despite those disturbing numbers, many employers stick their heads in the sand. They put their assets and employees at risk by gambling that “it couldn’t happen here.”

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The Texas Payday Act allows employees to sue for commissions earned but unpaid after termination. But that doesn’t mean that employees are always owed such commissions. If they violated their fiduciary duty to their employers by disclosing confidential information to a competitor, it’s legitimate to withhold pay.

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