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Houston Legal Blog

Officer fired after 18 years; files wrongful termination lawsuit

When different personalities and expectations merge in the work place, conflicts may arise. Unfortunately, not all conflicts can be resolved peacefully, which can sometimes result in accusations and hostile work environments. For example, one Texas police officer has filed a wrongful termination lawsuit against his superiors after he was suspended indefinitely.

The officer worked for the department for 18 years and was a firearms instructor when he was suspended. Allegedly, his supervisor became upset when he was requested to provide training for another department even though it had apparently been appropriately approved per the department policy. The request resulted in a strained relationship between the officer and his supervisor.

Rights of youthful workers under wage and hour laws

Teenagers and minors in Texas are protected under federal and state wage and hour laws. These laws establish a minimum wage for youth and establish standards for their working conditions in order to protect their health and safety. These laws are meant to also protect the educational opportunities that are available to young people.

Under the federal Fair Labor and Standards Act, employers are allowed to pay workers who are under the age of 20 a youth minimum wage of $4.25 per hour for the first 90 days of their employment. If they turn 20 before the 90 days are up, they must be immediately raised to the adult minimum wage. 

Ensuring you have a valid non-compete agreement

Your business is doing well enough that you are ready to begin expanding your staff. This is a difficult decision because more people on board means you have to rely on others, delegate duties and promote your workers. However, if you want your business to grow, you have to place a certain amount of trust in employees.

Perhaps your biggest concern with hiring new employees is that you've spent so much time developing your product or service, and now you worry that an employee will take company secrets and expose them to your business competitors. Creating non-compete agreements to include in your employment contracts may be your best solution.

Age discrimination alleged at Google, other tech companies

Workers in Texas technology companies who are older may be more likely to face age discrimination on the job than workers in other industries. Google is facing an age discrimination lawsuit that has been joined by 269 people, and it is not the first time the company has been sued for this. In 2004, it settled a case out of court. The company claims that it has policies in place to protect against age discrimination, but a judge said that this was not enough to protect it from a lawuit.

In 2013, the AARP conducted a survey that found about 66 percent of older tech workers reported witnessing or experiencing workplace age discrimination. One recruitment platform said that tech workers reported when they reached the age of 45, their salaries tended to level off while their job offers decreased.

DOJ takes position that Title VII does not protect gay workers

Employers in Texas and around the country are prohibited from discriminating based on race, religion, color, race or national origin by Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, but a contentious legal debate has raged in recent years over whether or not these protections should be expanded to cover gay workers. While President Obama made clear during his two terms in office that he believed that gay workers should be protected by the landmark law, Congress and the federal courts have generally been reluctant to act on the issue.

The situation was clarified somewhat on July 26 when the Department of Justice intervened in a case involving a man who claims that he was fired by a New York City company because he was gay. The DOJ stepped into the case even though the government was not involved. The department's filing states that Title VII does not protect gay workers and only applies in workplace cases when women and men have been treated differently.

Increase in 80/20 rule enforcement

Waitstaff and servers in Texas restaurants may wish to play close attention to the 80/20 rule related to tip credit for minimum wage employees. In many places across the the country, restaurants are experiencing an increase in lawsuits related to violations of the rule, and more jurisdictions are beginning to uphold the rule in court.

The so-called 80/20 rule is published in the U.S. Department of Labor's Field Operations Handbook. While it is not binding law, many courts are upholding that violations to the rule do rise to the level of violating an employee's rights under the Fair Labor Standards Act. The rule stipulates than when an employee's duties include those that are not related to collecting tips, they must be paid at least minimum wage for the time spent doing those tasks when the amount of time spent is 20 percent of their work time or greater. This could include things not related to serving customers, such as taking out the trash, doing prep work in the kitchen or cleaning the restaurant.

Wage discrimination affects many groups of workers

Although many Texas workers believe that wage discrimination is only a women's issue, there is evidence to suggest that many different groups of workers are at risk for experiencing unequal pay issues. These groups include older workers, workers with disabilities and men.

According to charge filings data from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission covering the last four fiscal years, it is true that the majority of charges that allege wage discrimination that is based on gender are filed by women. However, a portion of wage discrimination charges that were based on gender were filed by men. In fact, over that period, men made up an average of 15 percent of all gender-based wage discrimination claims per year.

Executives and Title VII discrimination claims

Executives in Texas companies face a unique set of concerns when facing workplace discrimination on the job. High-level employees are the subject of a significant debate regarding their own status in the employment discrimination context.

They could be viewed as either employees or as the employer themselves, due to their high-ranking managerial status. If they are viewed as employers, then they lack the protections provided by Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, whose anti-discrimination provisions are designed to protect employees.

Breach of contract? Seek a positive outcome for your business.

Contracts are a way to protect the interests of your Texas business, and it can be a threat to your financial well-being when the other party violates the terms of your agreement.

As the non-breaching party, you have the right to seek a financially beneficial solution to your legal dispute. Depending on the nature of your breach of contract issue, you could have a rightful claim to damages for your financial losses and other complications. There is much at stake, and you would be wise to act quickly to protect your interests.

Disrespectful workplaces can foster harassment

Workplace harassment has a specific legal definition and guidelines. However, disrespect and insensitivity in a Texas workplace can easily bleed over into even more damaging and troubling behaviors. Many human resources professionals emphasize the importance of building a positive culture of kindness and support in the workplace, not only to avoid harassment but also for the benefits it provides to the entire office.

Harassment is a specific type of unlawful activity that is based on protected factors under the 1964 Civil Rights Act and other federal laws. These protected classes include sex, age, race, religion, national origin, sex, age, disability, and others. Sexual harassment of the quid pro quo type, where an employee is told their job is at risk if they do not engage in sexual activity, can be blatant. But hostile work environments can be more difficult to detect, especially in an atmosphere that allows disrespectful conduct to flourish.

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