Articles Posted in Workers’ Rights

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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deontae-wherryThe restaurant industry is known for stealing hard-earned tips from its employees. This practice has been going on for years, yet it continues to be a paramount issue in the industry. As a restaurant employee, you may have asked yourself the following question because you have seen it done time and time again: Can my manager take my tip? Am I obligated to pay for a walked tab? Do I have to share my tip with cooks? The answer to all of these questions is likely no.

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rasha-zeyadehThe outbreak of COVID-19 has caused unprecedented changes to the lives of individuals across Texas and across the globe. The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (“CARES Act”), expands unemployment benefit assistance to workers who are eligible under state and federal law before COVID-19 as well as extending benefits to workers who were not eligible for unemployment benefits assistance prior to COVID-19, including self-employed individuals, independent contractors, and gig workers.

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austin-campbellTo some people, workplace retaliation just means their boss is taking revenge against them for something that they did—after all, that is often what people mean by “retaliation” in everyday life. Regardless of how moral that kind of retaliation is, not all workplace retaliation is the same in the eyes of the law. That is, something your employer does might well be retaliation as people generally understand it, without being illegal in the State of Texas.

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Employees can face severe psychological and financial harm when their employer unexpectedly terminates them or lays them off. The Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act (WARN Act) is a legislative attempt to mitigate the widespread negative consequences of unexpected termination and dislocation. The WARN Act requires specific employers to provide their employees with notice before a mass layoff or plant closing. Texas employers that violate WARN provisions may be liable to any affected employee.

The WARN Act typically applies to public, quasi-public, non-profit, and private for-profit employers that employ at least 100 full-time workers. Covered employees include supervisory, managerial, salaried, and hourly workers. However, business partners, striking workers, and temporary facility employees are not covered and are not entitled to notice.

The Act requires employers to give notice when (1) a plant is closing, (2) there is a mass layoff, or (3) over 500 employees are laid off at a single location. The Act also applies in situations in which an employee does not lose their job, but the employee experiences a work reduction of at least 50%. Generally, the Act requires employers to provide their employees with written notice at least 60 days before the closing. Employers cannot rely on verbal announcements, press releases, or notices included with a paycheck.

Many Texas employers require potential applicants and current employees to submit to drug testing. Federal and Texas laws permit private employers to adopt and implement broad drug and alcohol testing policies for their employers, with minimal limitations. However, according to the Texas Workforce Commission (TWC), government employers must show a compelling justification for drug testing.

The consequences of a failed drug test can be life-altering for an applicant or employee. In some cases, employers will provide rehabilitation services, but more commonly, employers will refuse to hire a potential applicant or terminate an employee. Additionally, employers are allowed to release the test results to the TWC, and this can affect a person’s unemployment compensation. Employees who believe their employer impermissibly drug tested them may have some legal protections.

Most employers should provide their employees with a written drug testing policy that outlines what results will be a violation, which employees require drug testing, and what measures will be taken after a violation. Unfortunately, Texas employers can fire employees that refuse to sign an acknowledgment of the drug testing policy. However, employers need to provide the employee with a warning that there is a risk of termination if they fail to sign the policy. Additionally, the policy needs to be enforced in a non-discriminatory manner.

The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) requires that businesses and employers provide nursing mothers with certain accommodations in the workplace. The Act applies to all qualified Texas employees, and if their employers do not offer these benefits, the employer may be liable.

Section 7 of the FLSA (the “Act”) requires employers to provide employees with time and resources to breastfeed in the workplace. The Act mandates employers to provide their employees with a “reasonable break time” to express breast milk for their nursing child for up to one year after the child’s birth. Often, these breaks are referred to as “pumping breaks.”

The amount of time the employer is required to provide must be reasonable, but this will vary as to the frequency and number of times needed. Employers have several options on how to allow their employees this reasonable time. Some have periods of downtime, and they may ask their employees to use that time to express milk. In certain instances, employers allow employees to split shifts to enable employees to leave and express milk. If an employer has a formal policy for nursing mothers, they must adhere to these policies and procedures.

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