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Houston Employment Law Blog

More than one sexual harassment claim filed at National Parks

Each year, many Texas residents take the opportunity to enjoy the country's national parks. They might be surprised to know that even in such beautiful surroundings, the specter of sexual harassment looms over workers. In fact, more than one sexual harassment claim has been filed against several of national parks. 

For example, more than 18 employees at Yosemite made allegations of misconduct that includes sexual harassment. The working atmosphere is described as being toxic due to the severity of the allegations. Yellowstone has also recently made news regarding claims of sexual exploitation, retaliation and intimidation.

Chipolte accused of wrongful termination by former employee

Last year, Chipolte Mexican Grill made headlines for removing food items that contain GMOs (genetically modified organisms) from its restaurants. Many people here in Texas and elsewhere applauded the fast food chain for this move. Chipolte has made the news once again, but this time there might not be applause since one of the company's former employees is accusing it of wrongful termination.

The woman began working for the company in June 2012. Since that time, she was promoted on more than one occasion. At some point last year, the woman was absent from work after having a baby. When she returned in December, things had changed.

Is age discrimination prevalent in the technology industry?

Advances are continuously being made in the technology industry, and many people assume that young minds are at the forefront of these changes. However, it might not surprise Texas readers to know that this is not always the case. Age does not necessarily have anything to do with innovation and ability, but that does not stop some companies in the tech industry from engaging in age discrimination by failing to hire qualified individuals because they are older.

Some would say that since young people grew up with computers, they are more familiar with them. Therefore, as the argument goes, they are better equipped to sell and/or fix computers and other technological devices. This perception could be driving the fact that many more young people seem to work at technology stores.

Wrongful termination suit alleges retaliation for FMLA leave

Life is unpredictable, and family obligations can interfere with a Texas resident's work from time to time. If an extended leave is necessary in order to recover from an illness or injury -- or care for a qualified family member who is doing so -- employees are entitled to certain protections under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). An out-of-state woman recently filed a lawsuit against her former employer alleging that she was the victim of wrongful termination after taking extended time off under FMLA.

The woman worked for a financial group when she began experiencing health issues in 2015 due to an unidentified disability. She exercised her rights under FMLA and took an extended leave of absence to deal with her medical issues. She claims that when she ultimately returned to work, she became the victim of harassment by her supervisor/manager.

How is sexual harassment defined by the EEOC?

Even in a time when many groups such as women and the LGBT community have successfully combated prejudice, sex discrimination continues to be a problem in the workplace here in Texas and elsewhere. Much of this discrimination takes the form of unwanted sexual advances and other inappropriate behavior. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission discusses sexual harassment as it is defined by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which applies to any company that has more than 15 employees, labor organizations and employment agencies, along with the federal government.

Physical or verbal behavior of a sexual nature, requests for sexual favors and unwelcome sexual advances all constitute sexual harassment. The conduct does not have to be aimed directly at a victim to be offensive -- it just has to be unwelcome. Harassers and victims alike can be either men or women, and it is not necessary for them to be of the opposite sex. Harassers can be supervisors, co-workers or agents of the company, along with non-employees.

New doctors should have employment contracts reviewed

Completing residency is an exciting time for many new Texas doctors. Once an offer of employment is extended, many will eagerly enter into employment contracts only to discover later that the terms are not as favorable as they might have believed. Therefore, it would be beneficial to have any employment agreement reviewed by an attorney prior to signing it.

Most employment contracts are fair enough, but will often be slanted more in favor of the Texas medical facility or practice group rather than the individual doctor. Furthermore, a new doctor who has never signed one might not know what to look for in order to ensure receiving the best terms possible. After enduring residency, some doctors might not pay close attention to the schedule in their contract since "it has to be better" than residency, but that is not always the case. The agreement should indicate what shifts (day or night) and how many shifts are expected, along with specific details on what being on call will mean.

Age discrimination case will not be dismissed

Defendants in lawsuits here in Texas and elsewhere will often attempt to have a case dismissed by claiming that it does not have merit. This happens more frequently than most would like to admit in cases alleging race, gender and/or age discrimination. Whether the case is allowed to proceed depends on numerous factors.

For example, a former university professor applied for a professorship in the university's Women's and Gender Studies program. The 63-year-old woman claims that the requirements for the position were purposely constructed to eliminate her from contention. Specifically, one of the educational requirements was a Ph.D. in a discipline that was not even available until 1995.

Damages phase of wrongful termination case set to begin soon

Some Texas workers might be able to make an argument that their former employers fired them from their jobs as a form of retaliation. If that is the case, they should consider filing wrongful termination claims against their employers. In doing so, they could seek both monetary and non-monetary damages if the court determines that they were, in fact, wrongfully discharged from their positions.

A former employee of the highway department in another state was able to prove to the court that he was wrongfully terminated from his position with the department back in 2013. The issues between he and the town in which he was employed began in 2010 when he sued the town for being fired from his position as the chief of the town's volunteer fire department after he accused the former chief ,who went on to become a selectman, of wrongdoing. He was awarded $27,500 in 2013 in connection with that claim.

Sexual harassment claim results in exit of Fox News Channel's CEO

Employees here in Texas who have been subjected to unwanted advances and other inappropriate behavior might be applauding the resignation of Fox News Channel's CEO, Roger Ailes. His departure from the network comes on the heels of a sexual harassment claim filed by Gretchen Carlson who used to be a co-host on "Fox and Friends," the station's morning talk show. The complaint and the resignation have brought the issue of sexual harassment back into the limelight.

Carlson claims that Ailes made inappropriate and unwanted advances towards her. She further claims that her career has suffered since she rebuffed him. The complaint triggered an internal investigation that caused additional women to claim Ailes sexually harassed them as well.

The Family Medical Leave Act an essential aspect of employment

Balancing work and home life can be a tricky business, and while at times it might be quite easy to handle, incidents can and do arise in which workers suddenly find themselves unable to fully commit to both. The Family Medical Leave Act is often essential in such situations when Texas employees need to step away from work for an extended period of time. However, there are minimum requirements that must be met in order for a worker to qualify for FMLA.

In general, businesses with at least 50 employees must provide FMLA. Simply being employed with such a business is not sufficient enough to fully qualify a worker for this leave, as he or she must have also been employed with a specific employer for a period of 12 months or longer. During that period, he or she must have also worked 1,250 or more hours at a worksite located either directly in the United States or in one of its territories.

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