Harjeen Zibari Trial Attorney

Have you been working on your March Madness bracket? I’m proud to announce that I’m participating for the first time in my life and chose brackets entirely based off of how unsettling each team’s mascot is. I’m really excited to see how this shakes out.

But such an exciting time for college basketball also brings issues of college athlete compensation to the forefront of an employment lawyer’s mind. Only very recently have college athletes been afforded additional protections and considerations under the law that acknowledge the amount of labor they provide to the NCAA. College athletes are not quite designated as employees, but maybe that door is opening after the NCAA v. Alston case. However, it’s a very important note that this is technically an anti-trust case, not an employment case. Anti-trust is an area of (mostly federal) laws that regulate the conduct and organization of business to promote competition and prevent monopolies, but discussions about monopolies and industries necessarily require conversations about the workers that fuel them. 

The NCAA v. Alston case has been making headlines in the world of college athletics since it was first filed back in 2014. The case centers around the question of whether or not the NCAA’s rules regarding compensation for student-athletes are in violation of federal antitrust laws. On June 21, 2021, the United States Supreme Court issued a unanimous ruling in favor of the plaintiffs, stating that the NCAA’s rules did indeed violate antitrust laws.

The case was initially filed by former West Virginia football player Shawne Alston and several other college athletes, who argued that the NCAA’s rules prohibiting student-athletes from receiving compensation beyond their scholarships were unfair and anticompetitive. To put things into perspective, the NCAA generates roughly $1 billion in revenue every year due to the efforts of its student athletes. However, it strictly regulates how athletes are compensated. The NCAA, for its part, argued that such rules were necessary to preserve the amateur status of college athletics and to ensure that student-athletes remained students first and athletes second. (Which is hard to believe, given the sheer amount of time and dedication it requires to be a student athlete, especially at the DI level). 

In its unanimous ruling in 2021, the Supreme Court rejected the NCAA’s arguments and stated that the organization’s rules had “significant anticompetitive effects” that violated federal antitrust laws. The Court did address whether college athletes should be paid salaries, but it did open the door for student-athletes to receive more benefits beyond their scholarships. For example, students can now be compensated for being featured in ad campaigns instead of being expected to provide free labor in that respect.

The implications of the NCAA v. Alston ruling are significant for college athletes and the world of college athletics as a whole. For one thing, it paved the way for student-athletes to receive more financial benefits, such as stipends for living expenses, or compensation for their name, image, and likeness. It could also lead to more competition among schools for top talent, as universities may be able to offer more attractive compensation packages to recruits.

At the same time, however, the ruling raises a number of questions about how compensation for college athletes should be structured and regulated. While some have called for a free-market approach that would allow athletes to negotiate their own deals with schools and sponsors, others worry that such an approach could create an uneven playing field and lead to exploitation of student-athletes.

Ultimately, the NCAA v. Alston case is just one chapter in an ongoing debate about the role of college athletics in American society. And with how uniquely American college sports are, for many this feels like unchartered territory. But should it be? It’s a basic premise that people should be paid for their work. The debates continues where people consider whether or not a full college scholarship is adequate compensation for the amount of work student athletes do on behalf of the NCAA.

College athletics is a strange animal in the field of labor and employment. Put very plainly, federal and state laws dictate that you must receive for work done. Are you in a wage dispute with your employer? Contact me in Dallas or one of our other talented Texas employment lawyers in Austin or Houston today.

Shaleigha Shepard
Shaleigha Shepard Trial Attorney

Cats paw theory is a legal doctrine used in employment law that holds employers accountable for discriminatory actions of their employees, even if the employer had no discriminatory intent. This theory has been applied in various employment law cases in Houston, Texas, and has significant implications for both employers and employees.

The term “cats paw” originates from an Aesop fable where a monkey convinces a cat to retrieve chestnuts from a fire, only for the monkey to eat them all, leaving the cat with burned paws. In the employment context, the term refers to a situation where an employer is burned by the actions of an employee, who is influenced by a discriminatory motive.

Under cats paw theory, an employer can be held liable for the discriminatory actions of an employee if the employee’s actions were motivated by discriminatory intent, and the employer was aware of or should have been aware of the discriminatory motive. This can occur even if the employee did not have decision-making authority and was not the ultimate decision-maker in the employment action.

For example, if a supervisor harbors discriminatory intent towards a particular employee and convinces a decision-maker to take adverse employment action against the employee, the employer can be held liable for discrimination, even if the decision-maker was not aware of the discriminatory motive. The supervisor’s discriminatory motive can be imputed to the employer under the cats paw theory.

Cats paw theory is particularly relevant in cases involving allegations of discrimination, retaliation, or wrongful termination. For example, if an employee is terminated due to a negative performance review that was influenced by a supervisor’s discriminatory motive, the employer can be held liable for discrimination, even if the decision to terminate was made by someone who was unaware of the discriminatory motive.

In Houston, Texas, the cats paw theory has been applied in various employment law cases. One notable case is Smith v. Continental Casualty Co., where an employee was terminated due to negative performance reviews that were influenced by her supervisor’s discriminatory motives. The employee filed a lawsuit against her employer, alleging that the employer was liable for discrimination under the cats paw theory. The court ultimately found in favor of the employee, holding that the employer was liable for discrimination because the supervisor’s discriminatory motive influenced the termination decision.

Another case that illustrates the application of the “Cat’s Paw” theory in Houston, Texas is Delaval v. City of Houston. In this case, a firefighter alleged that he was subjected to racial discrimination by his supervisor, who gave him a poor performance evaluation and recommended that he be demoted. The firefighter filed a complaint with the EEOC, alleging race discrimination and retaliation.

The city argued that it was not liable for the supervisor’s actions because he was not the decision-maker in the firefighter’s demotion. However, the court found that the supervisor’s actions influenced the decision to demote the firefighter, and the city knew or should have known about the discrimination but failed to take action to prevent it. Therefore, the city was held liable under the “Cat’s Paw” theory. The court awarded the firefighter back pay, compensatory damages, and punitive damages.

In conclusion, cats paw theory is a legal doctrine that holds employers accountable for the discriminatory actions of their employees, even if the employer had no discriminatory intent. This theory has significant implications for employers and employees in Houston, Texas, and across the United States. Employers must be vigilant in preventing discriminatory behavior by their employees and taking corrective action when discriminatory motives are identified. Employees who believe they have been subjected to discrimination or retaliation should consult with me, Shaleigha Shepard, or any other attorney at Wiley Wheeler, P.C. to determine their legal rights and options.

Harjeen Zibari Trial Attorney

There is a general understanding that the law affords certain protections for pregnant people in the workplace. Most notably, the Pregnancy Discrimination Act prohibits discrimination in the workplace on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions. The Pregnancy Discrimination Act was passed in 1978 as an amendment to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which is the same law that protects employees against discrimination for sex, race, national origin, or religion.  

The Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 protects pregnant people as well as people who have just given birth. The Pregnancy Discrimination Act requires employers to treat pregnancy-related conditions the same as other medical conditions. Therefore, employers must reasonably accommodate pregnant or recently-pregnant people with conditions related to pregnancy, such as morning sickness, back pain, or needing to pump. Examples of reasonable accommodations employers may offer to their pregnant or recently-pregnant employees include providing more frequent restroom breaks, modifying work duties, or providing a temporary leave of absence.  However, it is important to note that employers are prohibited from forcing pregnant employees to take leave if they are able to perform their job duties with reasonable accommodations such as the ones just listed. 

Additionally, the Pregnancy Discrimination Act prohibits employers from denying employment opportunities to people based on their pregnancy status, such as refusing to hire pregnant candidates or denying promotions to people who have recently given birth. Furthermore, employers are prohibited from asking candidates during job interviews (or any time during the hiring process) if they are pregnant or are planning to become pregnant.

Furthermore, employers are prohibited from making hiring decisions based on pregnancy status, just as they are prohibited from making hiring decisions based on race, sex, national origin, or religious preference. 

But sometimes a pregnancy affects a person’s life in more pervasive ways, giving rise to serious health complications. This begs the question, is pregnancy considered a disability under the law? 

The short answer is that pregnancy alone is not considered a disability under Texas state law or federal law. However, the Americans with Disabilities Act does afford protections for pregnant employees who experience disabilities that arise out of pregnancy. In other words, if pregnancy complications arise to the level of a disability under the ADA, that employee is afforded ADA protections. But an ordinary pregnancy itself is not considered a disability under the ADA.

A recent case out of the Western District of Texas examined this issue closer. In Hernandez v. Clearwater Transportation, Ltd., the Court found that the pregnant employee was indeed a qualified individual with a disability under the ADA because her pregnancy-induced condition, hyperemesis gravidarim, affected her daily life in such a way that it ought to be afforded legal protection as other disabilities under the ADA. To put it simply, if a pregnancy induces a serious illness or medical condition, it may rise to the level of a legally-protected disability. 

Once afforded ADA protections, a pregnant person is entitled to request reasonable accommodations in the workplace, and their employer must engage in the interactive process to furnish a reasonable accommodation. Furthermore, a person may not be retaliated against for requesting reasonable accommodations, using reasonable accommodations, or taking time from work to treat their disability. 

In sum, the law protects pregnant people in the workplace in a variety of ways. Do you believe you’ve been discriminated against due to your pregnancy status or a disability arising out of pregnancy? Contact one of our talented Texas Employment Lawyers today for a consultation. 

Marcos De Hoyos
Texas Employment Lawyer Marcos De Hoyos

Addiction is a complex issue that affects millions of people in the United States. It is a chronic condition characterized by compulsive drug-seeking behavior and the inability to control drug use despite negative consequences. Addiction can impact all areas of a person’s life, including their relationships, work, and health.

In recent years, there has been a growing discussion about whether addiction should be considered a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The ADA is a federal law that prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities in all areas of public life, including employment, education, and housing. It also requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations to employees with disabilities.

However, the ADA does not specifically list addiction as a disability. Instead, it defines a disability as “a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities.” Major life activities include things like walking, seeing, hearing, and working. Addiction does not fall neatly into any of these categories.

Despite this, some individuals and organizations have argued that addiction should be covered under the ADA. They point to the fact that addiction is a chronic condition that can significantly impact a person’s ability to work and perform other daily activities. They also note that addiction can be caused by a variety of factors, including genetics, trauma, and environmental factors, and that it is often accompanied by other mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety.

One of the main arguments for including addiction as a disability under the ADA is that it would provide greater protections for individuals struggling with addiction. If addiction were classified as a disability, employers would be required to provide reasonable accommodations for employees with addiction, such as time off for treatment or modified work schedules. This could help individuals with addiction maintain their jobs and prevent discrimination in the workplace.

Another argument for including addiction as a disability is that it would help reduce the stigma associated with addiction. By recognizing addiction as a disability, society would be acknowledging that addiction is a legitimate medical condition that requires treatment and support. This could help reduce the shame and stigma that often prevent individuals with addiction from seeking help.

However, there are also some arguments against including addiction as a disability under the ADA. One concern is that it could create a slippery slope where any behavior that is harmful to a person’s health could be considered a disability. For example, some argue that obesity or smoking could be considered disabilities under this definition, which could put a strain on employers and the healthcare system.

Another concern is that including addiction as a disability could lead to increased drug use. Some argue that if addiction is viewed as a disability, it could send the message that drug use is acceptable or inevitable for certain individuals. This could lead to more people using drugs and potentially developing addiction.

Despite these concerns, many experts believe that addiction should be considered a disability under the ADA. They point out that addiction is a chronic condition that can significantly impact a person’s ability to work and perform daily activities. They also note that addiction is often accompanied by other mental health conditions that can further impair a person’s functioning.

Furthermore, including addiction as a disability under the ADA could help reduce the stigma associated with addiction and provide greater protections for individuals struggling with addiction. It could also encourage more employers to provide accommodations for employees with addiction, which could help prevent discrimination and promote recovery.

The question of whether addiction should be considered a disability under the ADA is a complex one. While addiction does not neatly fit into the current definition of a disability, many experts believe that it should be included due to its impact on a person’s ability to function and the potential benefits of greater protections and reduced stigma. Ultimately, the decision of whether to include addiction as a disability will require careful consideration and discussion among policymakers, advocates, and the general public.

Kalandra Wheeler
Texas Employment Lawyer Kalandra Wheeler

Discriminatory work dress codes are a contentious issue in many workplaces.  Dress codes may unfairly target certain groups of employees based on their gender, race, religion, disability, or other personal characteristics. These dress codes can take many forms, such as: requiring women to wear high heels, dresses, or makeup; banning visible tattoos; requiring or prohibiting specific hairstyles; banning certain garments, such as long skirts or dresses; or requiring uniforms that are not accommodative.

One form of discriminatory work dress code may target women. Workplaces may have requirements for women to wear high heels, makeup, skirts, or dresses. These requirements can be uncomfortable, impractical, and even dangerous in some cases. For example, wearing high heels can cause long-term damage to a woman’s feet or back, while wearing a skirt or dress can make it difficult to perform certain physical tasks. Additionally, these requirements can be a form of gender discrimination, as they reinforce the idea that women are expected to present themselves in a certain way in the workplace – gender stereotyping.

Another form of discriminatory work dress codes are those that target people of color. Some employers may require employees to wear their hair in a certain way, such as straightening it or keeping it short. This can be particularly harmful to Black employees, who may be forced to conform to Eurocentric beauty standards in order to keep their jobs. Similarly, employers may prohibit visible tattoos or piercings, which can disproportionately impact people of color who may have cultural or religious tattoos or piercings.

Discriminatory work dress codes can also impact employees who practice certain religions. For example, some employers may require employees to remove head coverings or religious jewelry, which can be a violation of an employee’s religious beliefs. This can make it difficult for people to practice their religion in the workplace and can even be a form of religious discrimination.

Additionally, strict dress codes may impact employees with disabilities.  Constrictive clothing or uniforms may be uncomfortable or obstructive for employees with certain disabilities.  

There are a number of reasons why dress codes persist in many workplaces. Employers may believe that these dress codes are necessary to maintain a certain level of professionalism or to uphold the company’s brand image. Some employers may implement dress codes for the safety of employees. Others may believe that these dress codes are simply a part of the job and that employees should be willing to conform to them in order to keep their jobs.

There may be a number of reasons for an employer’s dress code. However, it is important to recognize that dress codes can be harmful to employees, can unlawfully single out an employee or group of employees, and can even create a hostile work environment. When there is no legitimate business reason for a particular requirement, this can amount to unlawful discrimination. 

Employers should make sure that they take an inclusive approach to workplace attire. This can involve allowing employees to dress in a way that feels comfortable and professional for them, without imposing unnecessary requirements that may discriminate against employees based on gender, race, religion, disability, or other protected characteristics. Failing to take an inclusive approach can create a broader culture of discrimination and bias. 

Discriminatory work dress codes do still exist. If you are an employee facing an employer that has or is implementing a dress code that requires you to conform to gender stereotypes; leave your race, religion, or culture outside the company doors; or is unnecessarily restrictive due to a disability, you may have rights that are protected. There may be legitimate business reasons for certain aspects of an employer’s dress code, which may make determining whether the dress code is discriminatory. This is why we have experienced employment lawyers available for consultation to discuss your concerns related to the dress code, your job requirements, and the working environment to determine if your rights are being violated. Before you act, know your rights. 

Colin Walsh
Texas Employer Lawyer Colin Walsh

Just like Soylent Green, companies and government agencies are people.  They have rights, they have beliefs, they have purposes, and ambitions, dreams.  And just like Charlton Heston in another sci-fi classic, they can speak!  

In litigation, whether in state or federal court, the company speaks through what is known as a corporate representative deposition.  Under the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure, a corporate representative deposition is taken under Rule 199.2(b)(1).  If the case is in federal court, the applicable federal rule of civil procedure is Rule 30(b)(6).  Under both rules, an entity is required to designate and prepare an individual or several individuals to speak on behalf of the company regarding topics enumerated specifically in the notice of deposition served by the other party.  

In theory, it goes like this: the party seeking the deposition of the entity—in my cases, that is the plaintiff—sends a draft notice to opposing counsel listing the topics on which we want the corporation to speak.  The entity’s attorneys—usually the defendant in my cases—then consult with their client and find one or more people can speak with knowledge on the topics provided.  We then work out a mutually agreeable date.  The deposition is taken and at the end we all join hands and sing.  In practice, it can be, but is not always, a bit more contentious.  

Here is the story of how a recent defendant tried to avoid, then delay having a corporate representative deposition and lost.

On December 13, 2022, I sent Defendant a draft copy of the 30(b)(6) deposition notice and requested dates for that deposition to take place. The next day, Defendant’s counsel responded that she had forwarded the draft notice to her client and that they are working on finding representatives for the topics.  On December 20, Defendant responded, offering to stipulate to certain things, or, alternatively, should we not make such stipulations, to designate a corporate rep for most of the topics listed in the notice, but fully objected to some other topics.

On December 22, 2022, we responded, rejecting the proposed modifications, stipulations, and combining of certain depositions. We then requested a deposition date by the end of the day.  Later that night, on December 22, 2022, we served our 30(b)(6) notice.

On January 9, 2023, at 5:31 pm, with just one business day left before we had to take another deposition in the case, Defendant filed a motion to stop the entire deposition, objecting to all of our topics.  

We responded on Friday the 13th and requested an expedited ruling.

On Tuesday, January 17, 2023, at about 9:30 in the morning, the Court denied Defendant’s motion and ordered them to appear at the deposition the next day.  Defendant tried once again to delay the deposition by filing objections to the order.  But objections don’t halt a discovery order.  Defendant did not show up at the deposition, in defiance of the court order.  A few hours later, the judge denied Defendant’s objections to the previous order.  Now Defendant is on the hook for the costs associated with them not showing up at the deposition.

The point of this story is twofold.  First, we fight for our clients and hold defendants accountable for not fulfilling their discovery obligations.  Second, defendants in employment cases can and do abuse discovery.  It’s a big problem and a lot of attorneys are not able to fight it because of the time and resources involved. 

If you have been unlawfully terminated and are considering your options, you should contact an attorney.  The board-certified attorneys at Wiley Walsh, P.C. may be able to help by discussing your case and providing a candid assessment.  We can be reached at wileywalsh.com or by calling 512-271-5527.

And now to end with what I’m pretty sure is from another Charlton Heston sci-fi classic:  https://youtu.be/qolk_rDA9xU

Jairo Castellanos
Austin Employment Lawyer Jairo Castellanos

Summary: On January 5, 2023 the Federal Trade Commission has published a proposed rule that would ban employers from forcing their employees to sign non-compete agreements. While, this is still only a proposed rule, it signals a growing concern over the harmful effects that non-competes have on the American workforce. 

On January 5, 2023, the Federal Trade Commission has published a proposed regulation that would in essence bring non-competes to an end. Under this new law an employer would be prohibited from entering into an agreement with its workers “that prevents the worker from seeking or accepting employment with a person, or operating a business, after the conclusion of the worker’s employment with the employer.” Specifically, this proposed law would prohibit employers from entering or even attempting to enter into non-compete agreements, maintaining a non-compete agreement, or representing to a worker that they are subject to a non-compete agreement unless it has a good faith basis to do so. Of pinnacle importance is the fact that this proposed law has a retroactive effect that would mandate that employers rescind any non-competes it may have with its work force within a certain period of time. 

Moreover, in order to ensure that an employer would not be able to bypass this new law by simply pigeonholing a non-compete into another provision of their agreement, the FTC has proposed the adoption of a “functional test.” In essence this test would measure whether the provision would prevent a worker from seeking employment elsewhere after they leave their current employer. The proposed law outlined two examples in which this may occur. First, a non-disclosure agreement that is drafted in such a way that it would preclude a worker from seeking employment in the same field, Second, a contractual term in which a worker is required to pay for training costs if the worker’s employment is terminated before a specific period of time. 

Lastly, this proposed law would preempt any state laws, unless they give greater protections against non-compete clauses. This means that states such as Texas, which allow non-competes, would be unable to continue with the practice. 

In short, this is a fantastic step in the right direction. It is estimated that roughly one in five American workers are subject to a non-compete. This is despite the fact that some states like California have long banned their implementation. Additionally, the FTC has estimated that passing this proposed law would increase wages by nearly $300 billion dollars a year and expand the career opportunities for about 30 million Americans. 

As an attorney that has defended many employees from alleged breaches of non-competes this is a welcomes sight. Often times, non-competes are in place merely to stifle the mobility of the workers. In Texas, these provisions are often times written in an overbroad manner that basically freezes workers out of particular industry. While these sorts of clauses are not allowed under the Texas Business Code, since Texas law mandates that court shall rewrite the agreements for the employers if they are deemed invalid, employers have little incentive to crafting narrowly tailored non-competes. Moreover, since the threat of litigation and forcing a worker to pay thousands of dollars in legal fees to defend a case is always present, it could be a situation that the employer can have their way without winning in court. 

At the moment though, it is far too early to celebrate this development. The FTC has merely proposed this rule, and it has opened a 60-day period where it seeks public comments on this proposed rule. Already many businesses have begun flooding the FTC with their disdain over this proposed rule, and a full-fledged effort to crush it have started. This is not even taking into consideration the legal challenges that will occur if this proposed rule passes. 

There are many times where on is able to express and have their voices heard like with voting. Here, we are presented with another such example. In order to keep striding towards a more equitable workplace, these types of protection are invaluable. That is why I believe that is important to have your voices heard and comment in favor of this proposed law. This can be done online at https://www.regulations.gov/docket/FTC-2023-0007/document.

Finally, at this moment, non-competes in Texas are still valid and enforceable. If you have any questions as to what your non-compete means, it is important to contact an attorney that specializes in employment law. Here, at Wiley Walsh, P.C. we specialize in labor and employment law. Feel free to contact us for a consultation. 

Harjeen Zibari Trial Attorney

When you leave a job, there are some obvious things you take with you: your mug in the break room, your family photos on your desk, your good pens that you bought from home that everyone likes to steal. There are some things you usually need to leave: your company computer, your access badge, your office phone. However, some people might think that they can take the actual work product that they created for their job while employed. This is where you can enter some really murky territory.

This blog will explore employee work product, which is a concept within employment law. Work product is not to be confused with Intellectual Property, which is a separate area of law. 

Put simply, work product is anything that an employee creates for their employer during the course of employment. The default rule, absent some other provision in an employment contract, is that your employer owns whatever work product you created for them while employed. For example, if you wrote a really stellar, lengthy, and involved report while working somewhere, that employer owns that report, even after you leave. You might still use it as a writing sample and boast about it on your resume, but you should not delete the file from the company’s database or transfer the credits to yourself. If you work in product development and created the recipe for your employer’s best-selling menu item, your employer owns the recipe to that item, not you. Again, you might boast going forward that you came up with and developed that recipe, but it still belongs to your employer. They will continue to offer that product after you leave and use the recipe that you created even in your absence. 

What about work product created beyond the scope of your job duties? Say you were voluntold to create a handbook for a program you don’t run because the company wants it to be more organized. Even if you create something beyond the scope of your job duties, if you created it for your employer while employed, it belongs to them. 

But what about the things that have nothing to do with your employer? Say you’re a talented seamstress and work for a clothing brand to create their garments. And because you’re so talented, you make your own clothes at home outside of work hours using your own sewing machine. Your personal items created at home on your personal equipment belong to you, even if it requires skill similar to the skills you use at work. But an employer very well may try to claim the opposite, especially with jobs that don’t have defined work hours, an office away from home, or separate equipment provided by the employer. It is worth consulting with an attorney to protect yourself in a scenario like this. 

Work product can be a really frustrating concept. After all, why should someone else own the things you’ve worked so hard on? The good news is work product provisions can be negotiable—the above just explains general default rules. Also, real life is rarely as concrete as the examples given above.  

If you are in a work product dispute with an employer, or otherwise want to protect your work product, schedule a consultation with one of our talented Texas Employment Attorneys today. Or, if you have received a contract from a potential employer and want to know how that contract may govern any potential work product you create, schedule a Document Review.

Kalandra Wheeler
Texas Employment Lawyer Kalandra Wheeler

We do the work because we love the work.  We chose to become plaintiff’s employment lawyers because we want to fight to protect the rights of hardworking individuals.  We have ups and downs. There will be great successes and victories.  On the flip side, in this fight, we will also take some tough punches and hard falls.  However, each day we get up again, ready to fight another day. It’s never-ending. There will always be employers that will violate the law. There will always be employees that have been unlawfully wronged. There will always be defense attorneys representing companies and their interests at the expense of employees.  This is why we continue to fight.  

This fight is not an easy one. Plaintiff’s employment attorneys see and hear the worst of the worst. We hear the sordid details of hostile workplace experiences. We witness the financial hardships created by loss of employment. We hear the heartbreaking stories depicting the emotional impact an employment dispute has taken on a person. We even hear stories of strained marriages and families breaking up in the midst of—and because of—the stresses caused by these disputes. We carry this heavy burden with not only one client, but with multiple clients. We carry this burden because these are the details we must know to best represent our clients.

In addition to the time we spend with clients learning about their cases and the damages caused, we have calls to make and answer, disputes with opposing counsel, matters to research, letters to write, motions and briefs to draft and respond to, deadlines to meet, hearings and trials to prepare for, and courts to appear in.  

In all of this, we must acknowledge that as attorneys we are still people.  Attorneys are not superheroes with endless reserves of a superpower we’ll just call “legal fortitude.”  

It is no secret that the daily grind for an attorney can take its toll on a person.  One of the most commonly known problems existing for practicing attorneys is alcohol abuse. However, attorneys must also be mindful of signs pointing toward depression, anxiety, and even drug dependency.

The pressures placed on practicing attorneys make it important to remember and practice self-care. There must be some modicum of balance between one’s life inside the office and that outside the office. There may also be the need to seek the services of qualified professionals. Professional services may include rehabilitation and addiction treatment, meeting with a psychologist or therapist, or even retaining a professional that assists with time management and organization.  If matters have not progressed to the point of seeking the professional services of a psychologist or therapist, making other adjustments may be beneficial in creating balance and reducing stress. These changes could be committing to a developing a habit of a regular workout schedule, disconnecting from work by taking classes or participating in activities or hobbies that that are not work related, or spending quality time with family and friends.  

The key take away is that attorneys are not superheroes. If you, or a lawyer you know, are in need of assistance there are services available. One resource available to lawyers in Texas is the Texas Lawyers’ Assistance Program (TLAP).  TLAP’s mission is to provide counseling, referrals to appropriate resources and professionals, and facilitate contacts with volunteers trained in providing peer assistance when appropriate.

We are not meant to operate as attorneys 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.  Just like we tell our clients, you are more than just your job. There is a difference between who we are and what we do.  What we do – practice law.  Who we are – mothers, fathers, daughters, brothers, hospital volunteers, painters, runners, dancers, theatregoers, troupe leaders, travelers and much more. We are meant to have balance and structure; we are meant to be more than one thing. This is how we stay healthy mentally and physically and are able to continue the work that we do and best help clients.  Sometimes attorneys do need a little help.  Just like anyone else. 

We are employment attorneys taking care of ourselves so that we may continue to care for our clients. 

Marcos De Hoyos
Texas Employment Lawyer Marcos De Hoyos

For many, the World Cup is the sporting event of the decade, and for good reason. It is a moment where countries and cultures from around the world gather for a singular purpose: to watch soccer. Already, the current World Cup has had plenty of drama: Japan defeating two World Cup champions only to be knocked out in penalty kicks; Morocco defeating Spain to be the only African team in the Quarterfinals; and Mexico not qualifying for the Knockout Rounds for the first time since 1978. Despite the dramatics, however, this World Cup differs from the ones before it, primarily due to the controversy that has surrounded its location: Qatar.

As many may be aware, Qatar won the bid for the 2022 World Cup. FIFA had already been in deep controversy due to the location of the 2018 World Cup (Russia). This year, however, there has been a massive and blatant affront on human rights. The working conditions within Qatar to build the stadiums were abhorrent. Migrant workers who primarily constructed the stadiums for the World Cup endured appalling labor violations that should not be overlooked. These violations included, but are not limited too, national origin discrimination, unpaid wages, and illegal recruitment practices.

Indeed, many of the migrant workers interviewed by Equidem, a human rights and labor rights charity, claimed that they faced significant exploitation, discrimination (primarily national origin-based), and abuse (many reported physical, mental, and verbal abuse). Many also reported unpaid wages, wages lower than what was originally promised, and failure to pay for overtime or end-of-service benefits. There was indeed a bevy of human rights violations that went into constructing the stadiums for the 2022 World Cup.

Though Texas’ following of at-will employment is draconian, employees do have protections in place to ensure that they do not experience the actions seen in Qatar. To begin, if one were to experience discrimination in the workplace (whether national origin, race, sex, disability, or age), then one would be protected under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Americans with Disabilities Act, or the Age Discrimination in Employment Act. If one is not paid the wages to which they are entitled to, then one can file a claim under the Texas Payday Law. Similarly, if one is an hourly employee and they are not paid for the work they committed in overtime, then one is able to file a claim under the Fair Labor Standards Act. Lastly, if one experiences a workplace hazard, then they can file a claim with the Occupational Safety and Hazard Administration (“OSHA”). Once can also file a Whistleblower claim with OSHA if there is a workplace hazard, they report it, and are subsequently terminated.
The World Cup is an extraordinary event that one should feel free to enjoy and participate in. With that being said, the infractions and human rights violations that occurred in Qatar should not be ignored and should be acknowledged and addressed. One should have the right to work in an environment that is free of discrimination and danger. If you find yourself in such a situation where you feel your rights are being violated at the workplace, then it would be prudent to consult with an attorney and see what, if any, options you may have.