Articles Posted in Workers’ Rights

deontae-wherryBy all accounts, we can agree that the year 2020 was unconventional in every way. We were forced to live our lives in ways that many of us never imagined. And when we thought things were going to get better, it seems things only got worse. As we enter into the new year, it is our hope that our best days are ahead of us with the newly approved COVID-19 vaccine (“vaccine”). 

No one knows how long it will be before everyone is vaccinated or even if the rushed vaccine will work. In fact, according to the Pew Research Center, while Americans’ confidence in the vaccine is increasing, many groups remain hesitant about getting vaccinated. It is becoming clear that whether we want the vaccine or not, employers are going to have a critical role in the administration of the vaccine.  This article discusses employees’ rights as it relates to employer-mandate vaccinations. 

On December 16, 2020, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) published its guidance related to workplaces requiring the COVID-19 vaccine. This guidance helps us better understand what we can expect in the days and months ahead. Nevertheless, employers must not violate employment laws in mandating or administrating the vaccine. 

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20201124_104652-203x300For an employee in Texas there are very few protections because Texas is an at-will employment state. An employer can fire an employee for any reason or no reason, and it is protected under Texas state law. The only thing an employer cannot do is terminate someone or take an adverse action against them for an illegal reason where their motivation is based on an employee’s protected characteristic. On that backdrop, it would seem that an employee has no recourse against an employer who is treating employees poorly, but not illegally. However, the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) does more than protect unions, it also creates an avenue for employees to raise concerns about the terms and conditions of their employment. The NLRA was meant as a way for workers to advocate for themselves, which most of the time takes the form of creating a union, but the protection is not limited to union members. Section 7 (aptly named “Rights of Employees”) states that “employees shall have the right…to engage in other concerted activities for the purpose of collective bargaining or other mutual aid or protection.”  This provision is given teeth by a later section which states that things like an employer’s interference with or restraint of these Section 7 rights is an unfair labor practice. The NLRA even created the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), which is an independent Federal agency that operates to enforce these provisions. Based on this history and structure, the NLRA gives employees a toolbox that can be used to approach an employer about their employment and have that activity protected by law. 

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deontae-wherryOne of the greatest benefits of our nation’s growth is the diversity that comes with growth. It is undisputable that more and more individuals are calling America home. As a result, the workplace is becoming more diverse and more employees are speaking other languages than English. According to the Center for Immigration Studies (“CIS”), more than 67.3 million residents in the United States now speak a language other English at home. CIS found that this number more than doubled since the 1990s. Texas ranks among the leading states that has a large share of residents speaking a foreign language at home. I expect these numbers to continue to increase exponentially in the decades to come. 

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fadi-yousefWorkers’ compensation is a form of insurance that pays for wage replacement and medical benefits to employees injured on the job or in the course of employment. Texas is a unique state that makes workers’ compensation voluntary for employers. For that reason, most private employers in Texas may choose to affirmatively “opt-out” of the state workers’ compensation system. Those who “opt-in” are called “subscribers” and those who “opt-out” are called “non-subscribers.”

In Texas, workers’ compensation retaliation is governed by Chapter 451 of the Texas Labor Code. Thus, a claim for retaliation is commonly known as a Chapter 451 claim. Chapter 451 makes it illegal for employers to discharge or in any other manner discriminate against an employee because the employee has:

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Employment law claims are undoubtedly the most difficult claims to bring forward. This is especially true if you are an employee in a conservative state like Texas. All other considerations aside, the financial and emotional cost of litigation alone is taxing. To make matters worse, the chances of success at trial in an employment law case is relatively low.rasha-zeyadeh

In 2019, The Harvard Law & Policy Review published a paper that found that from 1979 to 2006, plaintiffs won employment discrimination cases 15% of the time in federal court. Compare that to plaintiffs in all other civil suits who won their cases 51% of the time. The low margin of success for plaintiffs asserting employment discrimination claims can be attributed to many factors, including employer friendly laws, conservative judges and juries, and short deadlines. Continue reading ›

deontae-wherryHave you ever wondered about what the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) actually does? You are not alone. Every week, I speak to my clients or potential clients about the EEOC’s role in employment disputes. This article briefly explains the EEOC process, common questions, and why you may want to hire an employment attorney to assist you through the EEOC process.

What is the EEOC?

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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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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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deontae-wherryOver the last month, I have noticed an increase in the number of salaried employees who have become concerned about their paycheck. Some salaried employees have found themselves mandated to reduce their work to less than forty hours per week, and as a result to account for the reduction, their employers have threatened to reduce their pay. Conversely, other salaried employees have found themselves working significantly more than their traditional forty-hour work week as a result of the high COVID demands in their particular industry. However, some companies are not compensating employees for the extra hours worked – can they do that? Well, the answer is, it depends.

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