D.G. Parker Law Firm, PLLC
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 is the federal law that protects employees from race and sex discrimination in the workplace. Other federal, and state and laws prohibit these types of employment discrimination as well. This includes the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Equal Pay Act of 1963. Below are the various types of discrimination that employees can become a victim of:
• Race Discrimination
• Age Discrimination
• Disability Discrimination
• Religious Discrimination
• Gender or Sex Discrimination
• LGBT Discrimination
• National Origin Discrimination
• Pregnancy Discrimination
Sexual harassment is a form of gender discrimination in the workplace. Sexual harassment at work can include unwanted sexual comments, lewd gestures, requests for sexual favors, comments on a man or woman's gender, and many other verbal, nonverbal, or physical actions that affect an employee’s performance, job security and/or create a hostile work environment.
Workplace retaliation laws are not confined to one specific section of the law, but they are made up of different federal and Texas employment laws that protect workers who engage in legally protected activities. Employers are not lawfully allowed to retaliate against an employee for the following:
• Reporting or speaking out about workplace discrimination
• Reporting illegal activity or refusing to participate in illegal activity
• Filing for workers’ compensation after an injury
• Reporting sexual harassment
• Whistleblowing illegal business activities
• Reporting unpaid wages and/or unpaid overtime
• Reporting to jury duty
• Reporting safety violations
The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is a federal employment law which provides eligible employees with up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave during a 12-month period. An employee who qualifies under FMLA can take leave for pregnancy and birth, for adoption, for a serious illness, or to care for a sick family member. Employers must allow employees to return to their former positions at the same level of wages and benefits after FMLA medical leave.
A noncompete agreement affects both the employee and the employer. For example, an employee could be negatively affected by an overly restrictive noncompete clause when looking for employment in the future. However, a lenient or non-existent agreement could cause hardship on an employer if the employee shares proprietary information with competitors. An employee noncompete agreement is enforceable by Texas contract law only if it:
• Contains reasonable limitations regarding to time, geographical area and type of work
• Does not restrict a former employee from operating in an area where the employer has commercial activity
• Is part of an otherwise enforceable agreement, such as a noncompete clause in an employment contract
• Does not constitute unreasonable hardship on the employee’s ability to find gainful employment
Courts then determine whether or not a noncompete clause is enforceable.
Under the Equal Pay Act male and females must be given equal pay for equal work by their employer. The job duties must be substantially equal. Title VII also makes it illegal to discriminate based on sex in regard to pay and benefits.
A breach of employment contract occurs when either an employee or employer, breaks any provision of an employment contract. As Texas is an at-will employment state, it must first be determined whether an employment contract existed. If so, you must determine whether the contract was in writing and signed by all parties or if it was the result of a verbal agreement.
The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) protects employees from minimum wage violations and other pay offenses. Employees classified as “non-exempt” must be paid time and a half for any hours worked beyond the standard 40-hour workweek. Employers must pay for all hours an employee spends working, which includes time spent between jobs on a shift and small work breaks (20 minutes or less). In some situations, driving to work may apply, as well. If employees work for commission but do not make an amount equal to or more than the minimum wage per week, this may also be a violation of Texas wage and hour laws. Under Texas wage and hour laws, employees classified as “non-exempt” must be paid time and a half for any hours worked beyond the standard 40-hour workweek.
Each year, the Bureau of Labor issues citations and sanctions on thousands of companies failing to following United States employment laws. These violations are then punished by the Bureau of Labor and compensation to victimized workers is dispersed as well. Employment agreement contract disputes, however, generally do not involve violations of labor laws that will warrant intervention by a government agency, whether federal or otherwise. In these matters, typically a civil dispute between an employer and a single employee, common civil law tactics are necessary to resolve any disagreement.