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Houston Employment Law Blog

Employers are responsible for providing information on FMLA

The fact is that life is unpredictable. Couples have children, people are seriously injured in accidents and serious illnesses can happen without warning. Fortunately, the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) provides for Texas workers to take a certain amount of unpaid leave.

The problem is that many Texas employees are not sure what benefits they actually receive from FMLA. For example, an out-of-state man suffered from a debilitating depression and alcohol dependency. It was recommended that he enter into a rehabilitation program for 30 days. He applied for short-term disability in order to be able to attend the program. This application also served as a request for FMLA.

Woman says firing was retaliation for requesting maternity leave

The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is a federal law that requires employers to give employees unpaid leave for medical and family reasons that are covered in the act while also keeping the job open so the employee can return to work later on. Sadly, not every Texas employer is willing to keep a job open for an extended period of time. In some cases, employees could be fired in retaliation for even requesting FMLA leave, which could give rise to a wrongful termination claim.

An woman who is not from Texas filed a lawsuit on June 24 alleging that she was wrongfully terminated in March. On Feb. 24, she requested FMLA leave in advance of the birth of her child, which was not scheduled to occur until July. On March 19, her employer told her that her employment would be terminated in two weeks.

Racial and sexual harassment are still pervasive in the workplace

Every employee -- whether here in Texas or elsewhere -- is entitled to a safe and hospitable workplace. It would be nice to believe that in today's diverse and tolerant society, hostilities caused by racial or sexual harassment would be a thing of the past. Unfortunately, these and other types of harassing behaviors remain pervasive in the workplace.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission recently reported that of the nearly 90,000 complaints it received in the last fiscal year, an alarming one-third alleged harassment in the workplace. The report goes on to say that approximately 60 percent of workers experienced some sort of harassment based on race or ethnicity. In some cases, when workers complain about how they are being treated, they are terminated for their trouble.

Workplace discrimination case filed against prison system

Even in 2016, certain industries remain predominantly male. One of them is the corrections industry, which remains primarily staffed by men. Some Texas residents might assume that women are primarily placed in women's prisons and in the women's section of jails, but in many places, that is not the case. To restrict the positions that a woman can occupy would most likely be considered workplace discrimination.

In fact, this is what several women who work at an out-of-state prison are alleging. Back in 1997, there were rampant allegations that female prisoners were being sexually assaulted and otherwise abused by male correctional officers at the women's facility in that state. In response, the prison system required that a certain number of positions, along with particular positions, were to be filled by women in order to reduce the risk of those occurrences.

Dealing with employment contracts from inception to litigation

Many positions held in small businesses here in Texas and elsewhere require agreements between employer and employee. These employment contracts can contain any number of provisions that need to be negotiated. Along with the issues of pay, vacation and other incentives, the parties will also need to include provisions that will govern how the parties will proceed in the event that a dispute arises between the parties.

Parties are often able to come to terms regarding benefits much more easily than the parts of the agreement that cover severance, noncompete agreements and termination. These are most likely the most important clauses in an employment contract. The philosophy that encourages people to hope for the best while preparing for the worst should be the driving force behind the negotiations.

Workplace discrimination suit filed over lack of prayer breaks

The Civil Rights Act of l964 places restrictions on most employers from discriminatory practices against employees because of their religion. Legal actions brought forth by employees who require the ability to pray at certain times of the day in order to adhere to their religious obligations have become increasingly more common. Those in Texas who feel they have been subjected to workplace discrimination due to these issues may be interested in a recent lawsuit that aims to protect workers' rights in this area.

According to the complaint, employees working in a Midwest manufacturing plant had been allowed to take prayer breaks throughout the day in order to adhere to their religious laws. In keeping with the Islamic faith, believers are required to pray five times every day at a specific time. However, the company issued a new rule in January that only allows an employee to take two pre-set, 10-minute breaks during their shift, which has caused issues for those who follow strict Muslim tenets.

Negotiating employment contracts in Texas

Many executive and nonexecutive level employees throughout the state of Texas find themselves in a position where they need to negotiate the terms of their employment. In many circumstances, companies present employment contracts to prospective employees who sign them without considering the fine print. Furthermore, an employee might make seemingly unreasonable demands during the negotiation process.

In either case, continuing negotiations without an attorney could prove to be disastrous for one or both parties. Even a contract that seems fair when the parties are getting along could prove problematic if one party violates the contract. The litigation is often confined to the four corners of the contract. The provisions of that contract could favor one party more than the other, and the results of any litigation could also end up leaving at least one of the parties unsatisfied.

Superintendent retires in wake of sexual harassment scandal

One of the duties of every Texas employer is to provide employees with a safe work environment free from discrimination, harassment and retaliation. When a worker makes a complaint of sexual harassment or discrimination, it is the employer's duty to investigate the situation and take action accordingly. When complaints of these and other prohibited activities are ignored or "swept under the rug," it often passively encourages such behavior and creates a hostile work environment.

Reportedly, this is why the superintendent of a popular tourist attraction in the southwest part of the United States decided to retire from the National Park Service instead of being relocated. He made this choice in the wake of a federal investigation in which it was discovered that employees were being sexually harassed unchecked. He was not personally implicated in any of the activities, but it was determined that he failed to protect the victims and take action to make it stop.

Former nurse alleges she was fired due to age discrimination

As more older people around the country -- and here in Texas -- remain in good health for longer, they are remaining in the workforce longer as well. At the same time, there are younger, and supposedly more energetic and qualified people, coming into the workforce. There is an often unsubstantiated belief that younger workers will be better at their jobs than those who are seen as approaching retirement age. In some cases, this means that older employees could become the target of age discrimination.

A former nurse recently filed a lawsuit against her former employers, alleging that she was forced out of her position based on her age. She claims that she received favorable performance reviews during the course of her 27-year career until her supervisors began to discriminate against her based on her age. She goes on to assert that she was not the only one who experienced the same thing prior to her termination.

Woman alleges wrongful termination for being a whistle blower

Most companies across the country and here in Texas comply with the environmental and safety standards set by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. However, some companies are not in compliance, and employees might report those deficiencies. In some cases, those employees could become a victim of retaliation and wrongful termination for being a whistleblower.

A woman, who is not from Texas, recently announced that she is going to file a lawsuit against her former employer for retaliation, along with age and gender discrimination. She worked for the same company for approximately 31 years and rose into management during that time. While there, she came to believe that the company was not in compliance with existing environmental laws.

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