Articles Posted in Employment at Will

Whether you are last minute shopping or merely intend to do some shopping during the busiest shopping time of the season, we all know that stores become packed. This includes lines of people longer than normal, harried store associates racing to re-stock shelves and answer questions, and customers becoming less patient. It’s the last symptom that brings forward my trite recommendation for this holiday season: Be Kind. This mantra is used year-round for various purposes – believe me, I too roll my eyes – but in the context of an at-will employee diligently working during the winter, it makes sense to be reminded and here’s why. In my last blog I looked at how holiday hours are only beneficial if you can and do work overtime hours. This blog is about how workers are treated during those busy holiday hours by customers and store management. 

If you have ever had to work in any kind of customer service position or retail job, then you are aware that the holiday season brings a type of dread with it. Most customer service based positions and almost all retail positions are hourly employment jobs and deemed to be at-will. At-will employment in Texas means that there is no job protection for these workers, and they can be fired for any reason or no reason at all.  For example, take Rhonda – a cashier – putting in her very best efforts, battling the long lines of patrons and getting them through the checkout line as quickly as she possibly can. Drake, her manager, who is upset at how many customers are complaining during the holiday season, may not care about Rhonda’s best efforts. All he hears and cares about are the customers complaints over the predictably long lines. After being on her feet all day, and even working overtime hours with the store staying open late, Rhonda could be fired. Rhonda would have no recourse if her unreasonable manager terminated her employment for a legitimate non-discriminatory reason like customer complaints about long lines in front of her cash register. 

Aside from her manager’s obtuse lack of understanding about the holiday shopping season, Rhonda may feel some modicum of relief at being relieved of her job duties. It may be shocking to think that someone losing their job during the middle of the holiday season would have any benefits, but the silver lining for Rhonda may be the fact that she no longer has to put on a happy face as customers continually berate her. 

Linh-Nguyen--300x300

Linh Nguyen Dallas Trial Attorney

If you have been on Twitter lately, you have likely borne witness to the numerous accounts of laid off former Twitter employees flooding the site. In the tumultuous days and weeks following Elon Musk’s acquisition of Twitter, thousands of employees were laid off to offset the billionaire’s over-priced acquisition of the site. And if that wasn’t enough drama, numerous fired employees were then asked to return to their jobs as the site struggled to handle the massive reduction in its workforce.

  Twitter’s internal struggles are playing out in real-time on its very own platform, but it isn’t the only tech company to face large and even historic numbers of layoffs as of late. Meta and Facebook have cut over 10,000 employees each from its respective companies. Lyft and Stripe have also laid off approximately 13% of its workforce as well. According to Layoffs.fyi, a website which tracks tech job cuts, over 130,000 jobs have been lost worldwide in 2022 alone. 

The newest shockwave to hit employment customs is the murmurs of a four-day workweek. In fact, Iceland recently declared their experiment with the four-day workweek a success. Belgian workers won the right to a four-day workweek in February, and the United Kingdom has set up a trial run that began this month with about 70 companies volunteering. Further, other countries are looking at the European peninsula to see how their experiment goes to consider instituting the shortened workweek. So, how could we get a four-day workweek in the United States? 

The first way is obvious but unlikely. Either the House or Senate would have to draft a bill that mandated a four-day workweek for all businesses. Then, the bill would go to the opposite chamber of Congress before a final agreed upon draft was sent and signed by the President. The chance of a bill of this magnitude, with the potential to cause ripples throughout all levels of industry and business, wading through the stagnant pond of Congress is low, so we turn to a second method.

The second method has a greater likelihood, and it involves rallying all your coworkers during lunch to discuss how much you want to only work for four days. If multiple people agree, then you can be designated as a spokesperson for the group and approach your boss on their behalf to ask that a four-day workweek be considered for multiple reasons like everyone hates Monday anyways, Tuesday is the new Monday, and no one actually works on Friday. Be sure to also mention that a four-day workweek has been linked to boosted worker morale and productivity in the workplace, which would in turn help businesses. The positive of this method is that under Section 7 of the National Labor Relations Act, approaching your boss like this is considered protected speech about the terms and conditions of employment.

It’s the most wonderful time of the year. Love them or hate them, this is the time of the year during which employers are finalizing holiday party plans. After a long pause on holiday parties due to Covid-19, many employers are gearing up for their first holiday party since the pandemic.  Work holiday parties are a time for employees to get together, socialize, and celebrate a year well done. This is your opportunity to shake hands with the movers and shakers. However, holiday parties are notoriously known to pose serious risks for employees, especially if alcohol is served.

Let’s address the big Texas elephant in the room. Texas is an “at-will” state. That means your employer can fire you for no reason or any reason, short of unlawful discrimination or retaliation. In Texas, termination caused by your actions at a work holiday party is no exception to the “at-will” rule.

Following the holiday season, I typically notice an increase in consultations from employees who were terminated based on their behavior at a holiday party or who were either sexually harassed or discriminated against at a holiday party. A typical misconception is that your behavior and your employer’s behavior at a holiday party is not subject to workplace polices or procedures or employment laws. However, you are still subject to workplace policies and your employer is still subject to labor and employment laws, regardless of whether the party is held at work or off-site.

For employers and employees alike it is becoming apparent that there is a trend of employees leaving their workplaces. In Texas, the at-will doctrine allows an employee to leave for any reason or no reason, but sometimes resignations can be a bit more complicated. For employees it is complicated because resignations can be and should be used strategically rather than a simple decision to leave a job. To use a resignation strategically, there are a few things to consider and think about before pulling the plug. 

First and foremost, leaving a job can evoke questions about eligibility for unemployment benefits. In Texas, resignations, except for narrow exceptions related to “good cause connected with the work,” can be fatal to an application for unemployment benefits. While every case is different, resignations likely spell the end for unemployment benefit eligibility. Yet, it ultimately comes down to the Texas Workforce Commission’s decision. Therefore, if unemployment benefits are part of the financial planning underpinning a resignation, it is important to keep this in mind.

If unemployment benefits are not a concern or can be overlooked, then resignation becomes a good option to leave an employer on amicable terms. Outside of a contractual obligation, there is generally no notice period requirement on resigning. Nonetheless, there are practical steps to take before submitting a notice of resignation to protect your best interest. By way of example, medical procedures that can be done while health insurance coverage is still fully paid by your employer, figuring out finances in case you cannot find a different job, how a resignation might look at your next employer, and finally, contractual obligations. The contractual obligations can be tricky and are typically governed by an employment contract that an employee signed at the beginning of employment. Contracts that govern resignations or leaving a job without cause sometimes have requirements like a notice period, a method of giving that notice like certified mail to a specific address, or even set out specific information that needs to be in a notice. Some contracts even have promises of severance. 

Employment Lawyer Deontae Wherry

Dallas Employment Lawyer Deontae Wherry

COVID-19 has dictated much of our daily activities over the last 20 months. It seems that COVID-19 is not going away anytime soon neither is the vaccine mandate. Yesterday, President Biden’s administration fulfilled its promise that it would take more aggressive steps in getting more Americans vaccinated. The administration announced additional vaccine mandates affecting more than 100 million workers. In this article, I will explain what this mandate means for employees.

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Austin Campbell

Dallas Employment Trial Lawyer Austin Campbell

One of the more esoteric (arguably boring) concepts in law is the idea of “standing”—that is, what kinds of disputes the Constitution allows courts to consider, and who can bring them.  To put it another way, “standing” is about whether someone is allowed to sue someone else in the first place.  However, standing to sue is often directly tied to whether someone’s rights are protected by law.

 The new abortion law that took effect in Texas on September 1, 2021, is controversial for many reasons.  This article focuses on just one of those reasons: the law is enforced through a “bounty” provision that may allow anyone, anywhere, to sue someone for knowingly aiding or abetting—or even just intending to aid or abet—an abortion more than six weeks into a pregnancy.  The plaintiff in that situation can win a bounty of $10,000 plus costs and attorneys’ fees.  This article places that provision in context with the rules of standing for qui tam whistleblowers and other employment claims to point out just how much of a sea change it represents.  

fadi-yousefWhat does it really mean to be an “at will” employee in Texas? You’ve certainly heard of this term often. In the next few paragraphs, I will talk about what that term really means in the eyes of the law and how it impacts you, and I’ll also discuss the exceptions to at will employment.

The first thing you should know is that Texas is an “at will” employment state. At will employment simply means that your employer can fire you at any time, for any reason, or for no reason at all. That actually includes false, malicious, unfair, or unethical reasons, as long as those reasons aren’t illegal, or in violation of a contract (we’ll discuss below). At the same time, it also means that you, the employee, can quit your job at any time, for any reason, or for no reason at all. But what if your employer required you to give two weeks’ notice before you quit; does that mean you’re not an at will employee? In general, if your employer requires two weeks’ notice before you quit but reserves the right to fire you without notice, then your employment is likely still at will. This means if you quit without notice, you may be violating your employer’s policy, but not any law or contract.

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austin-campbellSo, one day your employer asks you to sign a piece of paper that talks about a “dispute resolution” program, including “arbitration.”  Perhaps you instead got paperwork talking about arbitration with your onboarding materials when you started a new job.  Or, maybe you just got an email from your employer saying you are now subject to arbitration “as a condition of employment.”  This article takes a basic look at what these things mean and why seeing them ought to—at the very least—cause you to sit up and think about what your next move should be.  

Arbitration is basically a private court.  The parties (including employees and employers) agree beforehand to submit disputes to a private decisionmaker or decisionmakers to reach a final, binding decision.  Some arbitration programs require the parties to select an arbitrator or arbitrators from a list of candidates associated with a large dispute resolution company like the American Arbitration Association, and might apply rules set by that company.  There is no judge or jury, and the ultimate decision may be kept secret.  Appealing an arbitrator’s decision can be almost impossible, and the rules of an arbitration may be quite different than those in a court.  As a result, employees may have less of an ability to get evidence from their employer. Continue reading ›

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