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The HR Specialist: Texas Employment Law

Just when you thought you had implemented all the necessary changes to your family- and military-leave policies, the law has again changed. On Oct. 28, President Obama signed the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for the 2010 fiscal year, which includes provisions that expand the military leave entitlements of the FMLA.

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Oral agreements are as binding as written ones, but they can be considerably less precise. Consider this case, in which a disgruntled employee claimed an oral agreement affected future compensation:

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On Nov. 10, the Fort Worth City Council voted to amend the city’s anti-discrimination ordinance to include discrimination based on transgender status, gender identity, or gender expression. Fort Worth now joins Austin, Dallas and El Paso as the only Texas cities banning such discrimination.

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Employees of T.J. Maxx stores in Texas have filed a class-action suit alleging that the retailer stiffed workers out of regular wages and overtime pay. The lawsuit claims management required workers who exceeded their scheduled hours to work off the clock and told them to use vacation and sick time to cover time worked beyond their scheduled hours.

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Many union contracts specifically allow employers to terminate employees who are out on workers’ comp for extended periods of time. Of course, injured employees also use up their allotment of FMLA leave while on workers’ comp leave. The question then becomes whether employers can count the FMLA absences toward the number of days the employee is absent before termination.

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An arbitrator has awarded nearly $3 million to a former employee of defense contractor KBR who says she was raped while working in Iraq. KBR has contested the arbitrator’s finding, and has asked that the award be reduced to $300,000.

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A former employee of the University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB) in Galveston has filed a lawsuit alleging he was fired last year because of his age. Thomas Galan claims he was let go at the age of 53 after Hurricane Ike forced UTMB to temporarily shut down in September 2008 and lay off hundreds of employees.

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Older employees who believe a supervisor is trying to get rid of them because they’re too old can voluntarily retire—and then turn around and sue their former employer. By citing the so-called constructive discharge theory, they can show they had no choice but to quit.

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Do you have a progressive disciplinary system? Don’t short-circuit it!

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OSHA last month announced it has issued $237,500 in proposed penalties against a Big Springs oil refinery accused of cutting corners on safety. The fines will be levied against Alon USA after an OSHA inspection found numerous safety violations.

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