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Houston Legal Blog

Wage theft costs workers billions of dollars

Workers in Texas and throughout the country may not always be paid their full wage in a given pay period. This is called wage theft, and there are many tactics that employers may use to pay less than what their employees are owed. These strategies include failing to pay overtime and failing to pay a employee for all hours worked in a given pay period. Employers may also hold back tips or pay workers less than the minimum wage in a given state.

A study conducted in 2017 by the Economic Policy Institute, or EPI, found that employees in the 10 most populous states lose $8 billion a year because of wage theft. The EPI believes that workers nationally will lose about $15 billion per year because they haven't been paid properly. On average, a worker will lose $3,300 a year because an employer has taken steps to improperly withhold his or her pay.

Lawsuit accuses former WeWork CEO of gender discrimination

The allegations made within a lawsuit filed against the former CEO of WeWork might sound familiar to people in Texas who have suffered gender discrimination at work. The woman, who had worked as the CEO's chief of staff, claims that he discriminated against her and paid her significantly less than the man who took over her role.

The discrimination emerged during the hiring process when the CEO inquired about her marriage and future pregnancies during an interview according to court papers. When she later took maternity leave, the CEO repeatedly called it her vacation. The lawsuit cites the CEO's marijuana use in front of the woman as the reason that she had to reveal her pregnancy to him. She needed to avoid exposure to marijuana smoke that happened when she traveled with him on his private jet. Court filings also describe a significant gender pay disparity. The man hired for her position received $400,000 a year plus a $175,000 signing bonus compared to the $150,000 paid to her for the same job.

Fighting for your rights after trademark violation

If you bought a car and parked it in your driveway, you might be shocked to look out your window and see your neighbor driving off in your vehicle without your permission. Your vehicle is your property, and you have the right to protect your property and use it as you see fit.

Your registered trademark is also property, and it is yours to protect. Your trademark identifies a product or service as uniquely yours. Ideally, when customers see your trademark—whether it is a word, phrase or symbol—they recognize the product and choose it over others that are similar. However, when other companies use your trademark to sell their products, this is a violation of your intellectual property rights.

Do you think your employer is retaliating against you?

Like other Houston residents, when you accepted the job with your employer, you probably expected to get along with your co-workers, supervisors and others in the workplace. All you wanted to do was go to work, get your job done, go home at the end of the day and maybe even make some friends in the process.

Sadly, after the "honeymoon" phase ended, your work environment became hostile. Whether you faced discrimination or harassment, you followed the company rules to make a complaint. Afterward, you began to feel as though your superiors treated you differently. Does their behavior constitute retaliation?

Protecting your trade secrets and employee mobility

Your company started with an idea. If you knew your idea was cutting edge and perhaps revolutionary, you were excited to make it available to the public. As your Texas business grows, so do your ideas because the world does not stand still, and your industry may be among those defined by rapid change. The trick for you is to continue expanding your business without letting the secrets of your trade get into the hands of your competitors.

Competition is fierce in many industries. This is why it is difficult to find and keep talented individuals. The employees who help move you to the next level are always looking for a better opportunity. So how can you protect their ability to move forward with their careers without jeopardizing your trade secrets?

How can you prevent workplace hostility?

You and numerous other Texas employers have a lot on your plates. In addition to ensuring that the company runs smoothly, you also need to ensure that your workers are productive, treated fairly and follow the rules. Any issue with employees could reflect badly on the company and could cause serious issues that you need to properly address.

In particular, it is important that workers do not feel as if someone has mistreated them on the job. In some cases, acts of discrimination or harassment could take place, and if the matter goes unaddressed, a hostile work environment could result. Because this type of issue could cause a number of problems, you undoubtedly want to make sure that preventive measures are in place.

Did you face unfair treatment after filing a complaint at work?

Going to work is something that most people do on an almost daily basis. You may have enjoyed your employment for the most part, but there are instances in which you may feel as if the environment is not the best. While you may have let some issues slide at first, you have likely felt the need to speak up if you experienced or witnessed wrongdoing continually.

In many cases, employees can follow policies set out by their employers when it comes to filing complaints. Though you may have followed this process when expressing your concerns about harassment, discrimination or other issues at work, the situation may not have garnered the outcomes you desired.

Can you avoid going to court on your discrimination claim?

One of the reasons you may have hesitated to even make a complaint about what you believe to be discrimination against you is because you didn't want the attention. All you want is to do your work and be left alone. Unfortunately, the situation reached the point where you had to do something.

Now, it looks as though you could end up in court because you feel your employer didn't adequately address your concerns. Fortunately, you may not have to take your claim to court.

Even though you are an intern, should you be compensated?

An intern, according to the dictionary, is a trainee -- typically a student or new college graduate -- who works for a company without pay to gain employment experience. It is difficult to get a good job in Texas or elsewhere without a padded resume. An internship can beef up your resume, making you stand out from the crowd. Unfortunately, depending on the duties assigned to you as an intern, you may end up working for free when you really should be compensated for your time.

While there is a line between intern and employee, there is also a gray area which allows some employers to take advantage of the situation. Employers do have the right to hire interns. They also have the right to not pay them, according to the Fair Labor Standards Act. They can only get away without offering monetary compensation, though, if the internship primarily benefits the intern. How can you tell if you or the employer are the primary beneficiary of your internship?

What do you need to prove quid pro quo sexual harassment?

When you accepted a position with your employer, you more than likely had certain expectations. You expected the atmosphere to be one of camaraderie and mutual respect. Sadly, it didn't turn out that way.

Perhaps your supervisor began making insinuations that if you engaged in sexual acts with him or her, you could get better assignments, a better schedule, a promotion or some other benefit. Maybe it was suggested that putting up with your boss's sexual advances would help you keep your job or keep you from receiving a less-than-stellar review. If this is your situation, you are likely the victim of "quid pro quo" sexual harassment. "Quid pro quo" means "this for that" or "something for something" -- in this case, sexual favors for employment.

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