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Houston Legal Blog

Workplace sexual harassment

Sexual harassment in the workplace received a great deal of media coverage in Texas and around the country in 2017, with numerous high profile people in the entertainment industry and other occupations ending up resigning their positions as a result. Several surveys have been taken on the subject, and while the results are not necessarily consistent, they do show that it is indeed a problem.

Depending upon the survey, anywhere between 22 and 60 percent of the women respondents said that they had been a victim of such unwanted behavior. In one poll, 30 percent of the women said that they had been the target of unwanted sexual advances from a male co-worker, and 23 percent said that the perpetrator was a supervisor or a man who had a similar influence over their work positions and situations.

What kinds of damages can you get for breach of contract?

More than likely, when you enter into a contract with another party, you fully intend to fulfill your end of the bargain and expect the other party to do the same. In fact, things may proceed as planned for some time before they begin to go wrong.

Whether your company provides the goods and services in exchange for payment, or the other way around, you diligently adhered to the terms of the contract, but the other party didn't. Your efforts at an amicable resolution of the situation failed, and now you face taking the other party to court for breach of contract. What types of damages can you expect if you successfully prove that the other party failed to live up to his or her agreements and your business suffered because of it?

Whistleblower wins retaliation and wrongful termination lawsuit

In Texas, there are protections in place for whistleblowers under both federal and state law. Whistleblowers are people who report co-workers for breaking laws or committing industry violations. Employers are forbidden from retaliating against employees who report colleagues, management or even executives for committing illegal acts.

A recent case in New York demonstrates the protections that whistleblowers enjoy. The plaintiff was an employee of an asbestos abatement company called Champagne Demolition LLC. The company, which was hired to remove asbestos from a school in New York, improperly disposed of the asbestos. The plaintiff entered the work area after regular hours and took photographs of the improperly removed asbestos. He then reported the company and was fired one day afterward.

3 examples of wage and hour violations

You work hard in order to obtain a living wage. The money you make undoubtedly goes toward making many necessary purchases to meet your daily needs and the needs of your family. Though you may not work in your ideal profession, you probably still appreciate the paycheck that you receive. Unfortunately, you may notice that your paychecks are not always correct.

Even if your employer gives you a single paycheck of the wrong amount, you need to bring the issue to his or her attention. If the problem happens consistently, you may find yourself repeatedly being the victim of wage theft. This issue can cause considerable hardships to you and other workers who deserve proper compensation for your services. How do you know when wage violations occur?

Wage theft in Texas

Laws regarding overtime pay are more complex than they might appear. The first step in examining a question concerning overtime is determining whether the worker is exempt or non-exempt. An employee is deemed "exempt" when they are excluded from receiving overtime pay for working in excess of 40 hours per week. In other words, they are "exempt" from the rules of the Fair Labor Standards Act. A worker who is required to get overtime pay for working more than 40 hours per week is not exempt from the FLSA.

The differences of these two classes in regard to overtime pay are pretty simple to understand. However, the real challenge comes from determining whether a worker is exempt or non-exempt. Not only is there are a distinction between the two classes, but there are also different types of exemptions -- each having a unique set of requirements.

Sexual orientation discrimination an open federal issue

The issue of sexual orientation discrimination in the workplace is a growing concern for businesses in Texas and across the United States. In December 2017, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to review a decision by a court of appeals decision in a case on the issue. This leaves intact a current split across circuit courts on whether federal law prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation in employment and hiring.

In the case, the plaintiff, an employee who worked in security in a hospital, claimed that she had been discriminated against due to her homosexuality, specifically by being passed over for a promotion. In the case, the circuit court ruled that Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act does not prohibit workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation; however, it did note that discrimination for failing to conform to gender stereotypes was prohibited under the gender discrimination provisions of the law.

Racial discrimination in the workplace is often subtle -- but still illegal

Some people -- perhaps young adults in particular -- find it surprising that racial discrimination still happens in the workplace, but race-based discrimination is unfortunately still a reality.

In many cases, the discrimination may not be obvious. Instead, it happens in subtle ways that the violator may try to explain away, claiming innocence. However, if you dig deeper, you may discover that the explanations simply don't hold water.

Most women feel discriminated against

While much has made recently about sexual harassment women experience, it may not be the only type of discrimination that they have to deal with. In fact, Texas residents and others tend to feel like they are discriminated against in general just because they are female. A poll was conducted by Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health that tried to get a sense of how large the issue of harassment was.

Of those who responded, 68 percent said that America discriminated against them because of their gender. Furthermore, 31 percent said that they were discriminated against when applying for jobs while 56 percent said that they believed men made more than they did where they lived. Of those between the ages of 18-29, 60 percent of respondents said that they had personal experiences being harassed or knew a family member who was harassed.

Restaurant servers fear theft of tips under proposed regulations

Existing wage regulations set by the U.S. Department of Labor allow servers in Texas restaurants to keep their tips and bar management from requiring tip sharing with kitchen staff. If a proposed change to the regulation becomes official, then restaurant owners will gain the ability to pool tips and distribute them between servers and cooks. Although some people in the food industry accept that this change could ease income disparity between front and back workers, the regulations as proposed leave open the possibility that management could keep the tip money.

The proposed regulation would give employers the option to forgo the tip credit that allows servers to be paid below minimum wage. After raising all employees to minimum wage, the restaurant owner could pool tips and distribute them or legally keep the money. The National Restaurant Association recognizes this issue but still supports the proposed regulatory changes without any adjustment to prevent management from keeping tips.

The colorful world of trademarks

Barbie has her own color - a trademark pink that distinguishes her packaging and logo from that of other dolls and toys. This may be the reason why so many little girls who love Barbie also love the color pink. For some products, the consumer automatically associates the brand with the color, and this is a plus for you if you want your product to stand out in a crowd.

If your product or service is similar to others in your industry, you likely want to find a way to make its marketing unique and then protect that marketing. One way to do that is through trademark protection. Many companies trademark their brands and logos, and a few have successfully trademarked a distinctive color.

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