Celebrating 20 years of representing Dallas employees, including Rasha Zeyadeh, Deontae Wherry, Fadi Yousef, Clara Mann*, Kalandra Wheeler, Jeannie Buckingham*, Austin Campbell, Julie St. John, Colin Walsh, and Jairo Castellanos. *Indicates non-lawyer staff.

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Like many, I feel an overwhelming sense of sadness and loss following the death of Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg. Not only did she establish herself as a champion of equal rights for all, but she lived the fight herself. Smart, accomplished, and determined, she chose law school at a time when women were not welcome. During law school, she found herself often demeaned and unappreciated, being asked by the dean himself how she justified taking a seat that could have gone to a man. She would ultimately rise to the highest level of American law, the United States Supreme Court. Among its nine members, there are few who have served with so much distinction.

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austin-campbellOver 1.6 million Texans were employed in the healthcare and social assistance industry by 2019, and that number is expected to grow steadily over the next decade.  Nursing in particular is one of the top five occupations in the state by number of online “help wanted” ads.  Because of that, it is all the more important that healthcare workers here are well-trained and competent, and also are empowered to say something when they see something that puts patient health or safety at risk.

Fortunately, the Texas Health & Safety Code provides some powerful whistleblower protections that are unique to the healthcare industry.  Unfortunately, figuring out if you fall within those protections is not always simple because the Code has so many different components.  Making things harder, Texas courts have interpreted relatively few parts of the Texas Health & Safety Code compared to other employment laws.  This article is meant to provide the reader with some basic information about some of the protections that healthcare workers (and others) have under this law, as well as limitations in the Code.

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rasha-zeyadehIf the events of the past few months have shown us anything, it’s that Black Lives Matter, words matter, and actions must have consequences. Both spoken and in writing, the language we use has the power to inspire, unite, offend, and divide. Sometimes, the use of seemingly harmless words, or the absence of words altogether, can have an everlasting impact.

This week, I gave an hour-long presentation to HR personnel about the negative impacts of implicit bias in the workplace and how to spot and eliminate such bias. Even so, I’d be remiss to believe that implicit bias will no longer exist simply because I spoke to a group of folks for about an hour.

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deontae-wherryThe biggest step is usually the first step. I am glad that you have taken the first step by scheduling an initial consultation to discuss your employment case. If you have not scheduled an initial consultation, I hope you do it soon.

Many of my clients have never had to meet with an employment attorney, so my goal is to make each client feel as comfortable as possible when meeting with me. You should not be scared about having to meet with an employment attorney. I can assure you, you have likely made the right decision.

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fadi-yousefWhat is mediation?

You’ve filed a complaint with the EEOC, OSHA, or the Texas Workforce Commission and were told that your case will be referred to mediation. Or your own employer’s internal grievance process includes mediation as an option. But what is mediation? Is it a good option?

Mediation is a form of alternative dispute resolution (ADR). ADR could mean many different things, but in short, it means settling disputes without having to litigate the case in court. Examples of ADR include mediation, arbitration, or even direct negotiations.

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austin-campbellIn recent decades, employers have become increasingly interested in their employees’ private lives. One question that comes up often is the extent to which employers can look into and use their employees’ medical information. The COVID-19 pandemic has only made these sorts of inquiries more common, so it is important that you as an employee understand your legal rights and responsibilities.

For starters, the default rule is that your employer cannot ask you about medical conditions or demand medical documentation for just any reason. According to the Americans with Disabilities Act (and specifically, 42 U.S.C. § 12112(d)) your employer can ask about medical conditions (including disabilities) or ask you to undergo a medical exam only if doing so is “job-related and consistent with business necessity.” What does that mean? Generally, your employer must reasonably believe that you have a health condition that impairs your ability to do your job or that poses a direct threat of harm to others. It is entitled only to information on those things. However, this does mean that you employer can ask for a doctor’s note for things like going out on and returning from sick leave.

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rasha-zeyadehPerhaps you resigned or were terminated or laid-off. On the other hand, you may have sued your employer for discrimination or some other sort of unlawful action. Either way, one of those events caused your employer to offer you a settlement or severance agreement. In exchange for signing the agreement, you will receive a payment, but also give up your right to pursue legal action against your employer, among other things.

If you are presented with a settlement or severance agreement, it is imperative that you read the agreement carefully and, if possible, get advice from an experienced Dallas Employment Lawyer. Typically, you will be allotted 21 days to review and sign the agreement, which provides you ample time to consult with an attorney. Oftentimes, companies sneak many clauses in the agreement that may come back to haunt you. Hence, consulting with an experienced employment lawyer is important.

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deontae-wherryAfter watching the 8 minutes and 46 seconds video that outraged the world, many individuals have joined in the fight for racial justice. These individuals have chosen not to be silent; they have decided to speak up and to speak out against racial inequality. The fight against systematic and institutional racism and discrimination is not solely related to police brutality, but it is embedded in every facet of our society, including in the workplace. Although the Civil Rights Act was passed more than 50 years ago, there is still great progress to be made to end workplace race discrimination.

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fadi-yousefThe Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978, which amended Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, prohibits employers with 15 or more employees from discriminating against women on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions. Although the PDA has been in effect since 1978, discrimination against pregnant women in the workplace continues to be an issue. In fact, in fiscal year 2019, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) received over 2700 charges of discrimination on the basis of pregnancy and collected more than $22 million dollars in monetary settlements.

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austin-campbellGenerally, you have the burden of proving if your employer’s actions toward you violate the law. Of course, sophisticated employers seldom admit to doing something that breaks the law, and often employment cases turn on a “he-said/she-said” moment, where the employee claims something was said and the employer later denies it. One way, we sometimes see employees try to even the playing field by secretly recording conversations in the workplace to have proof of illegal activity beyond their own word.

This article answers some key questions employees often have about recording in the workplace. Is it legal for you to do it? Can your employer order you not to? Can your employer punish you for recording? Is it a good idea?

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