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Your rights when your boss offers a severance package

Out of nowhere, your Texas employer called you into a meeting room and announced that the company was letting you go. Maybe you expected it, or maybe you were blindsided. Perhaps you can even connect your termination with a negative event, such as a complaint you registered with HR. Whatever led to your firing, if your boss offers you a severance package, you should understand the reasons behind it and your obligations if you accept it.

The law does not require your company to offer severance packages to terminated employees, but some companies find that it is a useful bargaining tool. Even though there is no legal precedent for your employer to give you a package when you leave, you want to make sure that you do not sign away important rights when you accept it.

EEOC reported to be investigating Uber

Texas residents may be aware that some of the nation's largest and most innovative technology companies have been accused of treating female and minority workers unfairly. Uber's co-founder and CEO was ousted in June 2017 after a former engineer wrote about how she had been harassed and discriminated against during her time with the company, and media outlets reported on July 16 that the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has launched an investigation into the employment practices of the ride-sharing giant.

Uber took steps to repair its image and address sexual harassment and discrimination in the wake of the engineer's revelations, but recent events suggest that more can be done. The San Francisco-based company's head of human resources resigned in early July after an internal investigation questioned her handling of allegations of racial discrimination, and Uber's newly appointed CEO has also been criticized. He was primarily brought in to address these issues, but the man he chose to be the company's chief operating officer was forced to make a public apology after it emerged that he had made disparaging and demeaning comments about women and minorities.

Cities working to keep hotel employees safe

Hotel employees in Texas and throughout the nation can be vulnerable to sexual harassment on the job. However, some cities are taking steps to offer protection. In Seattle, hotel workers were given panic buttons in 2016 to use in case of an attack. Workers in New York City who are in unions have had that technology since 2013. A group called United Here has surveyed members to determine the prevalence of sexual assault among housekeepers.

In Seattle, 53 percent of housekeepers who took part in the survey said that they had been harassed while working. Groping, guests exposing themselves to housekeepers and cornering them while in a room were among the most common complaints that they had. Both verbal and physical harassment were described as issues that they had experienced as well. The #MeToo movement is being partially credited with raising awareness about sexual harassment in the service industry.

Suing for emotional distress damages

Workers in Texas might be able to seek financial damages for the emotional distress they incur if they suffered specific forms of workplace discrimination or harassment. This type of compensatory damages may be pursued in employment discrimination cases that are filed under Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

There is a range of conditions and harms covered by emotional distress damages. They may include sleeplessness, damage to one's reputation, a diagnosed psychiatric condition, compromised relations with family members and friends, mental anguish and the loss of the enjoyment of living. In order for workers to obtain emotional distress damages, they are required to prove that the acts of retaliation or discrimination committed by their employer, and not another event that may have occurred in their life, resulted in the emotional damaged they sustained.

What if your boss asks you to work off-the-clock?

When your boss asks you to stay later than your scheduled hours, you likely appreciate the opportunity to earn a little extra money. Every little bit helps, and if you stay late often enough, you may even qualify for overtime pay. However, what happens if your boss asks you to stay after you have already clocked out?

According to the Fair Labor Standards Act, any time you work beyond 40 hours in a workweek counts as overtime, you should be paid at 1.5 times your regular pay rate for every hour you work beyond 40. If your employer is asking you to work off-the-clock, not only are you losing pay for those hours you work, but since those hours don't count toward your accumulated time for that week, you may also be losing the chance to earn overtime pay for future shifts.

Pregnancy discrimination a problem for many American companies

Texas mothers and mothers-to-be might be familiar with the discrimination that can take place in the workplace when an employee is pregnant. Despite any claims employers might make about caring for the health of pregnant employees, it is illegal in the United States to terminate a pregnant worker's employment.

Studies conducted over the course of 20 years have shown that pregnancy discrimination is a problem in some of the largest companies in the U.S. Individual reports of pregnancy bias in the workplace illustrate this fact. A mother working at a distribution center for a large American corporation was only able to take breaks due to morning sickness once she provided her employer with a signed doctor's note. Her supervisor also proposed that she take unpaid leave from work since she was unable to do heavy lifting at her job.

Is your non-compete agreement legally enforceable?

When you interviewed for your current job, your prospective employer may have told you that he or she requires all new employees to sign non-compete clauses in their contracts. You really needed the job, so you didn't fret much over it at the time. However, after being with the company for more than a year, you've decided it's time to move on. In searching for new employment opportunities, you began to worry that the contract you signed may limit your choices.

Non-compete agreements are common to the face of business in Texas and the rest of the United States. They are tools business owners can use to protect their assets. While you're never obligated (by law) to sign such an agreement, if you don't, you may risk losing or not getting a particular job. The clearer your understanding of non-compete clauses and what state law says about them, the better. It's also a good idea to have a support plan in mind if a contract problem arises.

The myriad causes of the gender wage gap

In theory, Texas employers and others are supposed to pay individuals equally for performing equal work. However, 55 years after the Equal Pay Act was passed, women still generally make less than men for performing the same jobs. On average, a white woman makes 79 cents per dollar earned by a white male. A black woman makes 63 cents for every dollar a white male makes.

Latina women earn the least compared to white males at 54 cents to the dollar. While many companies have policies that address gender diversity as a means of closing the wage gap, that may not address the entire problem. Some believe that it is important to take a look at how minorities are treated in the workforce to effectively close the gap for all women. On average, a black woman has to work until August of the following year to earn what a white male earned in the previous calendar year.

Wal-Mart and transgender employee settle discrimination claim

Texas employees may be interested to learn that Wal-Mart settled a discrimination lawsuit that had been filed by a transgender employee. The two parties filed a joint agreement to have the case dismissed in a federal North Carolina court. While the terms of the settlement were not disclosed, it was noted that the company admitted to no wrongdoing.

The employee began working at the location in March 2004. In 2008, she began presenting herself as a woman and was then fired in March 2015. She claimed in the lawsuit that her termination was in retaliation for complaining about harassment and for suffering from gender dysphoria.

I think my employer is guilty of wage and hour violations

The vast majority of Texas residents are hard, loyal workers who just want fair treatment in the workplace. Unfortunately, there are those who have fallen victim to wage and hour violations. Do you think your employer is guilty of these types of violations? If you do, you may be able to do something about it.

State and federal laws require employers to pay workers minimum wage and overtime when they work over 40 hours per week. Employers may try to find ways around these laws, but if caught they could end up paying for it in more ways than one.

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