I’ve heard: “my vote doesn’t matter,” “the election is rigged,” and “I don’t have time.”  If votes were of no consequence, politicians wouldn’t spend millions vying for your vote.  If your vote had no value, there would be no history of people fighting for the right to do so against forces trying to deny that right to so many others.  

January 1965 – the Southern Christian Leadership Conference launched a voting rights campaign in Selma, Alabama. In Dallas County, Alabama, where African Americans made up slightly more than 50 percent of the population, less than 1 percent of eligible African American voters were registered to vote.  When attempting to register to vote, or organize others to vote, African Americans were harassed, assaulted, jailed, and even murdered.  

Continue Reading The Value of Your Vote – Get Out and Vote

On September 22, 2020, the Department of Labor (DOL) announced a new proposed rule that would, if it becomes final, change the test the DOL uses to determine if a worker is an “independent contractor” or an “employee” under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). The result of this proposed rule change will inevitably be that thousands of employees will be reclassified as independent contractors under the FLSA. The FLSA is the federal law mandates employers to pay their employees minimum wage, overtime for time worked over 40 hours, and other record keeping requirements. My goal is to provide a brief overview of the new proposed changes and hidden dangers in the DOL’s proposed rule change.

Continue Reading Department of Labor’s New Proposed Regulations Pose a Threat to Employee Rights

In a previous blog post I wrote about arbitration. As a reminder, arbitration is essentially an alternative venue to litigate claims – a private venue companies are often willing to pay a lot for because it keeps disputes out of the public record and tends to be more favorable to employers. In this blog I will talk about how some companies go even further by requiring employees to not only agree to arbitration, but to agree to an entire alternative dispute resolution (ADR) process/procedure.

Continue Reading Complications that Result from Alternative Dispute Resolution Procedures

I hear it all of the time during consultations.  A potential client will tell me about the discrimination they have experienced at work.  They will describe how they were the only member of a protected class (age, race, sex, disability, religion, national origin, color) who applied for a promotion and that in fact, they were the only one qualified for the position, but they didn’t get it.  “You know,” they will continue, “I can’t think of anyone in my protected class who has been promoted to such a position.”  I will then ask this person why they think they were not promoted.  The person will then invariably say, “I think it was because of my protected class, but I can’t prove it.”

Continue Reading Circumstantial Evidence is just as Good as Direct Evidence

In today’s world we cannot ignore that social media is a huge part of our everyday lives.  What you post is available for others to see.  Even if your social media accounts are private, your posts are available to be seen by your family, friends, and even coworkers once you’ve accepted or extended a “Friend Request.”

But, that’s my private life, right?  It can’t affect my employment, right?  Wrong.

Social Media and Applying for a Job

Continue Reading Social Media and Employment – “But that’s private, right?”

On August 27, 2020, the Fifth Court of Appeals of Texas at Dallas reversed the dismissal of Fernando Herrera’s Texas Whistleblower case against Dallas Independent School District. In doing so, it ordered the case back to the trial court for further proceedings.   

The lawsuit alleges DISD terminated Mr. Herrera because he complained to Child Protective Services (“CPS”) about suspected child abuse by other DISD teachers. The lawsuit was initially filed in June 2018 in Dallas District Court.

The lawsuit states Mr. Herrera made two reports to CPS. The first report was made on or about March 31, 2017 after Mr. Herrera witnessed a DISD teacher inappropriately touching a student in front of several other teachers. The second report was made on May 16, 2017 after a concerned parent informed Mr. Herrera she suspected a teacher inappropriately touched a student. On May 17, 2017, DISD put Mr. Herrera on administrative leave.

Continue Reading Recent Texas Whistleblower Act Decision from the Dallas Court of Appeals

We have a lot of potential clients come to us because they are working in what they consider to be a hostile work environment. Their boss yells at them, belittles them, intimidates them, mocks them, etc. Sometimes this treatment is constant. Sometimes this treatment is intermittent but extreme. But generally speaking, these are not petty slights or simple annoyances; it is something more. Overall, these employees are working in an environment a reasonable employee would consider hostile, intimidating, or abusive.

Common sense would dictate that an employer should not be allowed to subject its employees to such treatment. However, unfortunately, there is no federal or Texas law that broadly protects employees from a hostile work environment.

Continue Reading The Hostile Work Environment

One issue that comes up repeatedly is whether an individual is an independent contractor or an employee.  The reason this comes up quite often in an employment law context is because most employment laws only apply to employees.  For example, the retaliation provision of Title VII, which prohibits retaliation for reporting unlawful discrimination, expressly applies only to employees.** The difference also matters for benefits, overtime pay, minimum wage, and tax consequences.  Very broadly speaking, independent contracts are usually cheaper for employers than employees.  Because of that, employers often misclassify employees as independent contractors.  This blog post looks at what that means.

Continue Reading Are you really an independent contractor?

The Family and Medical Leave Act provides eligible employees with unpaid, job-protected leave for certain family and medical reasons.  When employees request or take leave, these workers have protections from FMLA interference and retaliation.  This means that employers may not interfere with a worker’s rights to take FMLA leave and may not take adverse employment actions (e.g., write ups, demotions, terminations) against employees for exercising their rights under the FMLA.

Am I protected under the FMLA?

For employees to have protections under the FMLA, their employer must have a minimum of 50 employees within a 75-mile radius of the work location. Additionally, the employee must have worked for the employer for at least a year and must have worked at least 1,250 hours during that year. If all these conditions are not met, the employee may not be protected by the FMLA.

Continue Reading Can I really be fired while on FMLA leave?

One would be hard pressed to find someone who does not know that we are afforded free speech under the First Amendment of the United States Constitution. Similarly, we are also afforded the same right under the Texas Constitution Article 1 Section 8. Indeed, there are very few rights that are as well-known as the right to free speech, yet, the implications or effects that this fundamental right has in our workplace are often misunderstood and overestimated. My goal is to help clarify or shed light on a few misconceptions that I often see in my day to day practice.

Continue Reading Common Misconceptions Regarding Free Speech