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Houston Employment Law Blog

What makes employees leak trade secrets?

Trade secrets are a crucial part of any company. They help your business compete in a crowded market. Every company guards its secrets fiercely. However, many companies frequently have to deal with information leaks from current or former employees. These leaks, no matter how inadvertent or seemingly minor, can wreak havoc on a business. It leaves many employers wondering just what would motivate an employee to leak a company secret, and how to prevent such leaks.

 

A good employee handbook can fight workplace discrimination

Everyone should have the same opportunities at work. The federal government and the state of Texas have no tolerance for workplace discrimination based on a variety of personal attributes such as race, gender or religion, among other things. One way that employers can help fight discrimination is with a good employee handbook.

Of course, every handbook needs to include policies regarding the prohibition against discrimination. However, that is just the beginning when it comes to how it can help avoid workplace discrimination. The handbook's code of conduct may help establish basic rules that everyone should follow and that should be equally and consistently enforced.

FMLA leave doesn’t bar unemployment benefits

An employee in Texas may be able to take unpaid leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and receive unemployment benefits under the Texas Unemployment Compensation Act, according to the Texas Supreme Court.

The court recently concluded a case with an assistant emergency management coordinator in Wichita County who took FMLA to leave for medical reasons from August through November in 2011. In October, the employee applied for benefits under the unemployment, and the county rejected the application.

Court dismisses wrongful termination case of woman who flipped off motorcade

The photo of a lone bicyclist giving the finger to the passing presidential motorcade went viral on the internet and even made the rounds of late-night television last October. The cyclist was a marketing analyst employed by the Virginia-based Akima, which is a major U.S. government contractor. The employee subsequently saw the picture online and posted it to her Facebook page. She also notified her bosses of the incident.

The employee alleged that she was initially told she was being fired because the company feared retaliation from the federal government, and that she also violated the company's public policy of employees posted obscene content on social media.

Is it time to review your employment practices and policies?

There can be a number of different reasons why management or a business owner has not reviewed their employment practices or even have a policy. These can range from the fact that the business is starting to expand beyond a small family-run operation, or perhaps it's something that you have done in the past and have been too busy focused on running the business rather than reviewing its practices.

What to consider for this important policy

Common mistakes employers make about FMLA

There are circumstances where employees need unpaid leave for multiple weeks due to serious illnesses or family emergencies. Employers should be aware of how employees may trigger leave through the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).

FMLA provides eligible employees up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave per year. The act is designed to help employees balance work and family responsibilities through a reasonable amount of unpaid leave for family or medical reasons.

CSX to pay $3.2 million in sex discrimination case

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has ordered CSX Transportation (CSXT) to pay $3.2 million and provide other relief to settle company-wide sex discrimination case involving strength tests. A strength test called "IPCS Biodex" used by the West Virginia-based company was deemed unlawful because it had a discriminatory impact on women workers who applied for positions as material handlers/clerks, conductors and other jobs necessary for operating the railroad line. CSXT also was also cited for two other tests used for certain job applications - a now discontinued arm strength test and a three-minute step test to measure aerobic capacity - as unlawful.

Title VII prohibited the employment test

Department of Labor orders school to reinstate instructor

The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) determined that a flight instructor was wrongfully terminated after repeatedly raising safety concerns that were potential violations of Federal Aviation Administration regulations. It determined that the instructor was refused the chance to train students and harassed by the employer before being fired 2014.

According to the Department of Labor, the Orlando-based SIMCOM Training Centers must rehire the terminated employee and pay damages. The employee was protected under the Wendell H. Ford Aviation Investment and Reform Act for the 21st Century (AIR21).

Are non-competes becoming a thing of the past?

Just as certain as death and taxes is the reality that employees will leave. Sometimes for another job, sometimes for what appears to be no reason at all. A non-compete can add to the security that when your employees leave, they won't be able to take everything they learned about your business to the competition down the street.

The intent with a non-compete is a good one. You've put a lot of time and money into teaching your employee how to thrive in your business and utilize your confidential information to do so. The non-compete can keep that information from getting to the competition. 

Company to pay $110,000 in back pay and fines

Companies can make mistakes. There are judgment calls that leadership makes to ideally better position the company. Other compliance problems may result from a lack of good judgment.

JPO Contractors Inc. is an Alabama-based drywall and framing company that would seem to fall into the latter category. The U.S. Department of Labor Wage and Hour Division (WHD) investigated the company, determined that it must pay 43 employees more than $90,000 in back wages, and liquidated damages. The company had run afoul of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) by misclassifying laborers as independent contractors rather than employees. 

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