Rachel Bethel
Austin/Houston Employment Trial Lawyer Rachel Bethel

Seasonal and temporary employment are quite common. Once the season or the assignment ends, however, a seasonal or temporary employee might wonder: am I eligible for unemployment until I can find my next job?

In Texas, like in many other states, the rules governing unemployment benefits for seasonal and temporary employees can be complex and may vary based on several factors. This warrants a closer look into the specifics to understand whether such employees might qualify for Texas unemployment benefits.

What is Seasonal Employment?

Seasonal employment typically involves work that occurs during specific times of the year due to factors like weather, holidays, or industry demand. Examples include lifeguards during the summer, retail workers during the holiday season, and agricultural farm workers during harvest times.

What is Temporary Employment?

The Texas Workforce Commission defines “temporary firm” as a firm that offers client companies the services of its employees who possess certain skills sought after by the client company.

Client companies may seek “temp” workers for when they have peak demand seasons, staffing shortages, or personnel who are on extended leave for vacations, pregnancies, or illnesses, etc. Client companies are able to get coverage without needing to hire a temp worker indefinitely.

The temporary firm itself manages things like the worker’s hiring, firing, paychecks, payroll taxes, unemployment insurance contributions, and social security.

 Eligibility Criteria in Texas

In Texas, eligibility for unemployment benefits, including for seasonal and temporary employees, is determined based on multiple factors, including work history, earnings, and the reason for job separation.

To qualify for unemployment benefits, an individual should meet at least the following criteria:

·      One should have earned a certain amount of past wages in what is known as the “base period,” which is typically the first four of the last five completed calendar quarters before the claim is filed.

·      One should also be unemployed through no fault of their own or working fewer hours through no fault of their own.

o   Examples may include layoffs, company closures, reductions in hours or workforce, or resigning with good cause related to work (though this last one may pose difficulty for workers).

·      One must actively search for new employment and able to work.

·      For temporary workers specifically, workers must contact the temp agency no later than the next business day after one has completed an assignment.

·      Temporary workers must then allow the temp agency three business days after the last assignment has ended to offer a new temp assignment before the temp worker can apply for benefits.

Obstacles for Seasonal or Temporary Workers

Seasonal employees in Texas may face difficulty in meeting the eligibility criteria for unemployment benefits due to the nature of their employment. Since this kind of work is inherently temporary, they may not have sufficient wages in their base period to qualify for benefits.

The Texas Workforce Commission has a Benefits Estimator to envision what your benefits may look like. However, this calculator does not definitively provide information on eligibility. The TWC also has a Benefits Tutorial for when you are ready to apply.


Navigating unemployment benefits as a seasonal or temporary employee in Texas can pose some unique challenges. However, being a temporary worker does not, in itself, disqualify someone from obtaining unemployment. As long as one is able to fulfill the normal eligibility requirements, one should be able to obtain unemployment benefits as well.

Staying informed about changes in unemployment laws and other benefits may provide alternate or additional avenues for relief. The Covid-19 pandemic, for example, engendered previously unprecedented relief for workers. Keeping abreast of updates may allow for added support when you need it most.

Finally, if you need a legal professional’s help for further questions, please contact an Austin employment lawyer today.  

In our fantastically diverse world, understanding and accommodating various religious practices is essential for fostering inclusivity and respect within communities, workplaces, and society as a whole. One such practice deserving attention and accommodation is Ramadan, a sacred month observed by Muslims worldwide.

Ramadan, the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, is observed by Muslims as one of the holiest months of the year. It is a month of fasting, prayer, reflection, and community, aimed at intense spiritual growth and development. Ramadan commemorates the revelation of the Quran to Prophet Muhammad and is considered one of the Five Pillars of Islam. During Ramadan, Muslims abstain from food, drink, smoking, and other physical needs from dawn until sunset.

Accommodating Ramadan demonstrates respect for the religious and cultural practices of Muslim employees, fostering an inclusive environment where everyone feels valued and respected.

Providing religious accommodations aligns with principles of religious freedom, ensuring that employees are not discriminated against or disadvantaged because of their religious beliefs and practices. Religious accommodations contribute to a positive workplace culture by promoting understanding, empathy, and teamwork among employees from diverse backgrounds. When accommodations are provided and respected, employees know that they have the necessary support and flexibility to fulfill their religious obligations while balancing work responsibilities.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 requires that employers provide “reasonable accommodation” for an employee’s religious practices, unless doing so would cause “undue hardship.” Therefore, employers are legally required to make adjustments in the workplace so that employees can observe practices related to their faith.

Employers should be proactive in efforts to ensure that religious accommodations are provided, honored, and respected. Religious accommodations come in many different forms, and what constitutes a reasonable accommodation should be determined on a case-by-case basis. Requests for accommodation should not be summarily denied by employers.

For employees observing Ramadan, there are many possible accommodations available in the workplace. Employers may provide flexible working hours that allow Muslim employees to adjust their schedules to accommodate fasting and prayer times. Employers can also provide a designated space for Muslims to perform their prayers during work hours. Additionally, employers can be respectful when scheduling meetings or events to avoid conflicts with prayer and fasting.

Aside from providing accommodations, employers should take action to prevent harassment against employees based on their religious beliefs. Furthermore, where harassment was not prevented but occurred, employers have a duty to take swift remedial action when it becomes known. Under the law, employers cannot simply ignore unlawful harassment.

In a beautifully diverse world such as ours, religious accommodations for practices like Ramadan is not only necessary but contributes to a happy and safe working environment. By embracing diversity and accommodating religious practices, we promote inclusivity, respect, and understanding among individuals of different backgrounds. Ramadan serves as a reminder of the importance of recognizing and honoring religious diversity. If you feel you have faced discrimination or harassment based on your religion, we have attorneys available for consultation.

Colin Walsh
Austin Employment Trial Lawyer Colin Walsh

One of the elements of every retaliation claim is that there must be a “causal link” between the employee’s protected activity and the adverse action.  In previous blogs I have talked about the standard for determining whether a materially adverse action has occurred.  In this blog, I would like to talk about one particular way of showing a causal link: timing.

In the Fifth Circuit when an adverse action occurs shortly after an employee engaged in protected activity, that timing alone can raise an inference that the protected activity caused the adverse action.  Close timing in the Fifth Circuit has been held to be four months or less.   See Evans v. City of Houston, 246 F.3d 344, 254 (5th Cir. 2001) (“A time lapse of up to four months has been found sufficient to satisfy the causal connection for summary judgment purposes.”).

But does it have to be so close in time to use temporal proximity to raise a fact issue regarding causation?  The answer is no and there isa sizeable amount of case law on this issue.  The main case on this issue is Starnes v. Wallace, which analyzed temporal connection as follows:

[W]hen it comes to timing, we have recognized that the prima facie case does not rigidly consider only one form of temporal connection. . . . Although Starnes was terminated more than a year after she engaged in protected activity, the termination occurred just ten days after Daybreak paid $40,000 to resolve the problem Starnes raised. The time when funds have gone out the door may be when the retaliatory impulse is strongest. The termination also came within a month of the meeting between Rich and Ludy, in which Rich heatedly blamed Starnes for the dispute over Vincent’s pay. Starnes v. Wallace, 849 F.3d 627, 635 (5th Cir. 2017).

Starnes is not an anomaly, but an established standard.  Gee v. Principi  involved an over two-year lapse between protected activity and non-selection for a position.  In Shirley v. Chrysler First, Inc., this court found that a time lapse of fourteen months “did not absolve the defendant of its responsibility for retaliating against the plaintiff for her filing of an EEOC claim.” .  In Zamora v. City of Houston, Judge Atlas found that a twenty-six-month gap where the plaintiff alleged a series of adverse actions spanning several years was sufficient to defeat summary judgment.  Montgomery-Smith v. Louisiana Dept. of Health & Hosp., found six to seven years not between protected activity and adverse action not too remote.

The Montgomery-Smith case is particularly interesting.  In that case, after the employee had engaged in protected activity, the employee’s supervisor told her that she would never receive another promotion again.  Six to seven years then went by before the employee applied to two promotions for which she was qualified that were under that same supervisor.  The supervisor denied the employee both promotions.  Under those circumstances, the court found that there was a causal connection between the protected activity and the denied promotions even though over six years had passed.

In a case my firm currently has on appeal to the Fifth Circuit, we are arguing that there is a temporal connection between protected activity and an adverse action that occurred four years later.  In that case, the supervisor our client made a complaint against in 2015 retired for several years before returning to supervising our client.  Shortly thereafter, the supervisor ignored a directive from his superior and issued our client a reprimand that resulted in our client losing required certifications for his job and being transferred elsewhere.  We are hopeful that the Fifth Circuit will agree and remand the case for trial.

If you think you have been the victim of retaliation at your place of employment, please contact a lawyer to discuss possible action. The lawyers at Wiley Walsh, P.C. have extensive experience in representing workers in retaliation claims.   

Rachel Bethel
Austin/Houston Employment Trial Lawyer Rachel Bethel

A category of discrimination that does not yet have federal protection is discrimination on the basis of weight. Weight discrimination in the workplace is quite prevalent but remains unprotected nearly everywhere in the U.S. One troubling 2023 survey by the Society for Human Resource Management revealed that half of people managers indicated a tendency to favor interacting with “healthy weight” employees. 

A study specifically regarding weight discrimination in hiring processes illustrated how much one’s size can inappropriately impact their employment opportunities. The results indicated that job applicants experiencing obesity were rated as less suitable compared to candidates of average weight or candidates whose sizes were not revealed. Female applicants experiencing obesity were identified as more likely to be discriminated against than their male counterparts. Finally, those applying to more physically demanding occupations were deemed as less suitable for the role when experiencing obesity. Evidence in other studies have noted that people experiencing obesity are perceived as having “less leadership potential” and “expected to be less successful.”

Countless employees report facing bias, prejudice, and even harassment day in and day out due to weight. From being passed over for promotions to enduring harassing comments, the impact of weight animus on one’s career and mental well-being cannot be overstated. Sadly, as we know, this animus extends across society, from kindergarten bullying to disparate treatment by healthcare workers to employment discrimination. 

The rise of social media and digital platforms has fostered the proliferation of fat-shaming, trolling, and cyberbullying. However, social media has also provided room for marginalized voices. Those of bigger sizes have successfully harnessed their power to normalize varying body sizes on screens and find camaraderie and support. Social media has also allowed for society as a whole to engage in and be exposed to conversations about body positivity. Although weight discrimination has long been ignored, it seems that American society is finally starting to validate this form of discrimination & seek remedies for those experiencing it.   

Just two weeks ago, New Jersey advanced a bill that could make it the second state in the country to render unlawful discrimination based on weight. The last state to do this was Michigan—back in 1976. From coast to coast, cities across the nation have successfully obtained protection against weight discrimination, including New York City, Binghamton, Washington, DC, Madison, Santa Cruz, and San Francisco. The country has a very long way to go, but momentum for protecting this trait has markedly increased. Several other jurisdictions across the U.S. are presently working to pass similar bills, including Vermont, Massachusetts, and New York.    

While Texas does not yet have any active legislation to protect against weight discrimination, several Fifth Circuit courts have made moves in the right direction. Unlike most jurisdictions across the country, multiple district courts in the Fifth Circuit have held that obesity can be an actual or perceived disability under the ADA, regardless of whether there is an underlying physiological condition. 

Unfortunately, last year, the Supreme Court of Texas chipped away at this progress. According to Dr. Niehay, a former medical resident at Texas Tech, she was discriminatorily terminated due to her weight. The question before the court was whether morbid obesity qualified as an impairment under the Texas Commission on Human Rights Act without any evidence that it was caused by an underlying physiological disorder or condition. The Court held that unless an underlying physiological disorder or condition causes the obesity, the obesity itself does not qualify as a disability. 

This setback highlights the importance of making weight a protected class of its own. This way, workers can confront weight discrimination head-on. Every employee deserves to be treated with dignity, respect, and fairness, regardless of size. Hopefully, the momentum we see now will help us to foster a more inclusive work environment for all. 

Science indicates a problem – a HUGE problem – but big businesses, making big money, could not care less. Why should they when the law and the courts don’t hold them accountable? It is a system that is broken, and when the law refuses to step in, it remains that way.

There are many jobs and entire industries that require drug testing before one can enter the hallowed halls and join their workforces. These include many jobs in the federal sector, law enforcement, and private sector jobs with federal regulations. Drug tests can be conducted with urine, blood, saliva, and hair samples on a regular basis. Individuals seeking employment sign the line consenting to drug testing, trusting that the companies performing these tests will exercise care. They have no choice if they want the job.

Unfortunately, when these testing companies fail to exercise care, the cost is an employee’s livelihood. Yet, these companies are allowed to slink away under the cover of darkness. When false positive test results are verifiably incorrect, there is no accountability. The employee is left fighting for their career with no recourse for the damage the testing company has caused.

A very common method for drug testing in the workplace is hair follicle testing. Its increased popularity is due to its ability to detect substance use over a longer timeframe and its perceived resistance to manipulation. However, the fact remains that there are numerous questions about the reliability of the science behind them.

Hair follicle testing may indicate drug exposure, but the difficulty arises when attempting to determine how that exposure occurred. This ambiguity poses a critical question in the reliability of attributing drug presence to internal ingestion or external contamination.

Experts agree that certain drugs and chemicals bind to melanin, the pigment responsible for hair color. Furthermore, melanin is not the only issue with these tests. Scientists have argued that cosmetic treatments commonly used by individuals with darker hair can damage hair cuticles, thereby increasing the risk of contamination from drugs in the environment. Remarkably, higher concentrations of melanin in darker hair and chemical treatments for individuals with certain hair types raise concerns about potential racial disparities in test outcomes.

What does this mean? It means that certain demographics of people, many minorities, might be more prone to false positives due to their hair characteristics.

When employees are told about their false positive test results, they protest. Companies have the ability to provide alternative tests or retest to verify results, but there are many testing companies out there that only care about the big money they are making and have no regard for the lives they are destroying.

There are many employees that have received their false positive test results and quickly gone out to have tests conducted by other companies, in an effort to prove the prior test result was a false positive. When they have proof of negative tests, they fight to provide their negative results to testing companies and their employers. There are employees that have begged testing companies and employers for retests or to consider the results of retests they paid to have done themselves. Sadly, these protests and pleas are often ignored.

This battle has been ongoing for decades. Even now, there are numerous lawsuits filed throughout the country by people wronged by testing companies and employers that are not interested in the truth. Despite testing companies contracting with employers to provide these tests for their employees, and employees signing off on consent forms with the expectation that these companies should be trusted to produce accurate results, there are courts holding that these third-party testing companies have no duty of care to the employees. The employer has now fired the employee based on the result, and the company performing the test continues to do business as usual – leaving the employee with nothing.

It is important for employers and testing agencies to be aware of these potential biases and to consider them when interpreting the results of hair follicle tests. Individuals undergoing such tests should be treated fairly, and testing policies should be implemented in a way that minimizes the risk of discriminatory outcomes. It is our hope that the law catches up with the science and where it does not, that employers question these testing companies and fairly consider retests or alternative tests to verify the so-called positive test results.

If you have concerns about legal issues as they relate to your employment, we have attorneys available for consultation.

Paige Melendez
Houston Employment Trial Lawyer Paige Melendez

Valentine’s Day is a tricky day in the office. It’s a day that is about celebrating love when the office is often expressly not. This then makes the question “how can I safely celebrate” more important. Thankfully, this situation has laws that can help navigate this time.

Since February 14th falls on a weekday, most people may want to plan something with a significant other. It is important to understand that there is no protected vacation leave or PTO under Texas law for at-will employees. It would be helpful to peek at the employee handbook to see what the proper procedure is for requesting time off and follow the guidelines. However, there is protected leave that is available under certain circumstances. An example would be if you have surgery scheduled for February 13th and you request FMLA leave, unpaid leave for family or medical reasons, to recover. The coincidence would be just that because your protected leave to recover would not be interrupted by a holiday.

Medical leave that coincides with Valentine’s Day is not the only law that may apply for the day. Another law that would probably be the most applicable to Valentine’s Day is Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. This law specifically focuses on prohibiting discrimination in the workplace and protects employees from retaliation if they oppose or report discrimination. In particular, Title VII prohibits sexual harassment or creating a hostile work environment through discriminatory actions. During Valentine’s Day, regular office policies still apply, so if there are guidelines or prohibitions for workplace celebrations, it would be helpful to know ahead of time if you’d like to participate or not participate in events. On top of regular office policies regarding holiday celebrations, if a coworker is actively making you uncomfortable with their Valentine’s celebrations, the law provides protection from retaliation for employees who speak up in these instances. For example, if someone is discussing their love life in-depth and the conversation is unwelcome, then this could be an instance where Title VII would encourage you to report the situation following the applicable office guidelines. 

Similarly, while in school it was typical to hand out Valentines to all the classmates, in the office space some of the same rules apply. Exclusionary actions from a coworker or being treated differently during a Valentine’s Day celebration in the context of a history of this behavior towards you can signal a hostile work environment. Hostile work environments created by this type of behavior are prohibited under Title VII. If someone is using Valentine’s Day to make overtures that make you uncomfortable, then it is something that can be discussed with your supervisor. A remedy could look like approaching your supervisor or human resources representative and reporting that some of the celebrations are making you uncomfortable. Speaking up about a coworker who is making you uncomfortable, even if it is a holiday, is protected activity under Title VII, which prohibits sexual harassment in the workplace.

Title VII also prohibits religious discrimination. If the office has Valentine’s decorations, but it is something you do not wish to participate in due to a sincerely held religious belief, then Title VII protects your right to ask for a religious accommodation. For example, an accommodation could be for your office space to remain free of decorations. This is something that could either be brought to the attention of your supervisor or Human Resources, and raising the need for a religious accommodation is protected under the law so your employer is prohibited from retaliating against you for requesting it.

Finally, focusing on Texas law specifically, the day of love has limits to expression in the office. Under Texas law, employers with at least one or more employees will be subject to the Texas Labor Code’s prohibition on sexual harassment. Typically, under federal law the minimum is 15 employees to come under coverage for Title VII, but the Texas Labor Code is more far-reaching. If you feel like Valentine’s Day was not lovely for you and you’d like to discuss these issues more with an employment attorney, then I would encourage you to contact us to talk about your situation. 

Shaleigha Shepard
Houston Employment Trial Lawyer Shaleigha Shepard

Typically, employers are not obligated to offer severance benefits unless there’s a prior commitment, outlined in a written policy or employment agreement. In most cases, severance pay agreements fall within the discretionary realm of the company, often presented in exchange for a comprehensive release of all claims. Now, let’s explore the key facets of severance agreements to gain insights into their importance for both employers and employees.

Navigating the Components:

Severance agreements, as discretionary tools, play a pivotal role in defining the terms of employment termination. These agreements are designed to address the interests of both parties involved, ensuring a smooth and mutually beneficial transition.

Financial Considerations:

Financial elements form the crux of severance agreements, encompassing aspects such as severance pay, continued benefits, and compensation for accrued time off. It is imperative for individuals to carefully examine these components to align with industry standards and the individual’s tenure.

Confidentiality and Non-Disparagement:

Embedded within severance agreements are clauses governing confidentiality and non-disparagement. These clauses underscore the importance of maintaining confidentiality about company matters and refraining from making negative statements post-termination.

Release of Claims:

An integral part of severance agreements is the release of claims, where departing employees agree not to pursue legal actions against the employer. For individuals in Houston, a careful assessment of the implications of this agreement is crucial, with the option to seek legal counsel if needed.

Non-Compete and Non-Solicitation:

Some agreements may feature non-compete or non-solicitation clauses, restricting certain activities of the departing employee within a specified timeframe and geographic area. The enforceability of these clauses under Texas law should be a point of consideration.

Severance agreements stand as discretionary yet impactful instruments in the professional realm. Whether you are an employer structuring an agreement or an employee navigating its terms, a clear understanding of the legal framework ensures a fair and informed transition, embodying the essence of mutual benefit and professional integrity.

Consulting with legal counsel, such as me, or any other attorney at Wiley Wheeler, P.C., remains a vital aspect of navigating severance agreements. Legal advisors guide individuals through the terms, ensuring clarity, facilitating negotiations, and protecting the departing employee’s rights. Feel free to get in touch with me, Shaleigha Shepard, or any attorney at Wiley Wheeler, P.C., for support in understanding or negotiating your severance agreement.

Rachel Bethel
Austin/Houston Employment Trial Lawyer Rachel Bethel

The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) is vital in protecting employees who need time off for medical or family-related reasons. Unfortunately, despite the safeguards provided by the FMLA, employees remain exposed to employers’ unlawful retaliation for taking FMLA leave. Below, we’ll explore how to recognize potential signs of FMLA retaliation and discuss strategies for addressing such situations.

Signs of Potential FMLA Retaliation and Harassment:

1.     Adverse Employment Actions:

Watch out for sudden changes in your role shortly after returning from FMLA leave. These might include actions such as a demotion, suspension, poor evaluations, reduction in hours, pay, or scope of work, being assigned to perform less desirable duties, or even termination. 

2.     Unjustified Discipline:

Be wary of unwarranted disciplinary actions and sudden over-scrutiny. If you notice a sudden increase in hostility and subsequent write-ups or penalties, this could be a sign of FMLA retaliation. 

3.     Denial of Benefits or Opportunities:

Retaliation can manifest in the denial of benefits or opportunities that you would have otherwise been entitled to. This may include promotions, raises, educational benefits, or training opportunities that seem to be suddenly or inexplicably withheld. Where an employer demands that you 

4.     Exclusion & Deterrence:

Pay attention to changes in communication. If you were once included in important meetings or decision-making processes and are suddenly excluded, it might be a sign of retaliation. Being required to provide your employer with unreasonable notice in advance of taking leave, being asked to delay your leave, or being required to work while on leave can be indicia of harassment and retaliation.

What to Do if You Suspect FMLA Retaliation:

If you suspect FMLA retaliation or harassment, schedule a meeting with one of our Austin employment lawyers. We can provide guidance on your rights and possible avenues for relief.

Know Your Rights:

Familiarize yourself with FMLA regulations and your rights as an employee. Being informed empowers you to advocate for yourself and can serve as a deterrent against potential retaliation.

Know that covered FMLA leave includes:

Serious Health Conditions:

Employees can take FMLA leave for their own serious health condition. This includes illnesses, injuries, or impairments that may require inpatient care or continuing treatment by a healthcare provider.

Birth and Care of a Newborn:

FMLA allows eligible employees to take leave for the birth of a child and to bond with the newborn within one year of birth.

Adoption or Foster Care Placement:

Employees can take FMLA leave for the placement of a child through adoption or foster care. This includes time to bond with the newly placed child within one year of placement.

Care for a Spouse, Child, or Parent with a Serious Health Condition:

Eligible employees can take FMLA leave to care for a spouse, child, or parent with a serious health condition. This includes providing care, support, or assistance during the family member’s medical treatment or recovery.

Qualifying Exigency Leave:

FMLA provides for leave for qualifying exigencies arising out of the fact that the employee’s spouse, child, or parent is a covered military member on “covered active duty” or has been notified of an impending call to “covered active duty” in the Armed Forces.

Military Caregiver Leave:

Eligible employees can take FMLA leave to care for a covered service member with a serious injury or illness. This includes the spouse, child, parent, or next of kin of a covered service member.

FMLA retaliation and harassment are serious workplace issues that can have profound consequences on your professional life. By being aware of the signs, understanding your rights, and taking proactive steps to get help, you will be better equipped to protect yourself from unlawful retaliation and harassment. 

Marcos De Hoyos
Houston Employment Trial Lawyer Marcos De Hoyos

In recent years, there has been a growing awareness and recognition of mental health issues in the workplace. As individuals strive to balance professional responsibilities with personal well-being, it becomes essential to understand the legal framework that protects employees facing mental health challenges. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a crucial piece of legislation that provides a foundation for requesting accommodations to ensure equal opportunities for all. In this blog, we’ll explore the intersection of mental health and the ADA, focusing on how employees can effectively request accommodations from their employers.

Understanding the ADA and Mental Health

The ADA prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities in various aspects of life, including employment. Importantly, the ADA defines a disability broadly, encompassing both physical and mental impairments that substantially limit one or more major life activities. Mental health conditions such as anxiety, depression, and PTSD fall within the ADA’s scope, making employees with these conditions eligible for protection and reasonable accommodations.

Reasonable Accommodations

The ADA requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations to qualified employees with disabilities to ensure they can perform essential job functions. When it comes to mental health, reasonable accommodations can vary widely, depending on the nature of the condition and the specific demands of the job. Examples of accommodations for mental health might include flexible work schedules, telecommuting options, modified job duties, or additional breaks.

Initiating the Accommodations Process

If you are dealing with a mental health condition and believe that workplace accommodations would be beneficial, initiating the request process is a crucial step. Here are some guidelines to help navigate this process effectively:

  1. 1. Self-Reflection: Before approaching your employer, take some time for self-reflection. Identify specific aspects of your job that are impacted by your mental health condition and consider potential accommodations that could address those challenges.
  2. 2. Know Your Rights: Familiarize yourself with your rights under the ADA. Understanding the legal framework will empower you to articulate your needs effectively and advocate for your rights in a knowledgeable manner.
  3. 3. Communicate Openly: When you feel ready, schedule a private meeting with your supervisor or HR representative. Clearly communicate your mental health condition, its impact on your work, and the accommodations you are requesting. Be prepared to provide any necessary medical documentation to support your request.
  4. 4. Collaborate on Solutions: Engage in a collaborative discussion with your employer to find mutually agreeable solutions. Your employer may have questions or concerns, and it’s important to address them openly. The goal is to find accommodations that allow you to perform your job effectively while considering the employer’s operational needs.
  5. 5. Document Everything: Keep thorough records of all communications related to your accommodation request. This documentation can serve as valuable evidence in case of any disputes or misunderstandings in the future.


Navigating mental health accommodations in the workplace requires a combination of self-advocacy, knowledge of legal rights, and effective communication. The ADA serves as a powerful tool to protect employees with mental health conditions, ensuring they have the opportunity to thrive in their professional lives. By approaching the accommodation request process with clarity, openness, and collaboration, employees can work towards creating a supportive work environment that accommodates mental health needs while maintaining productivity and professional success. If you feel that your employer has not been working with you in granting accommodations or if they are retaliating against you for requesting accommodations, be sure to consult an employment attorney to see what, if any, options you may have. 

Paige Melendez
Houston Employment Trial Lawyer Paige Melendez

It’s a new year and that comes with new laws going into effect in Texas. Of particular note, is the law that Governor Abbott signed in November 2023 expanding a prior law that prohibited state and local government in Texas from imposing vaccine mandates. In a third Special Session, the law was expanded to include private employers. The law officially goes into effect on February 6, 2024, but prior to the law going into effect it is important to note the specific ways it impacts employees in Texas. 

Texas at its core is an at-will state, which means that even without this law, an employee being required to receive a COVID-19 vaccine could resign at-will. However, this new section of the Texas Health and Safety Code imposes administrative penalties for vaccine mandates imposed by private employers. The law applies to any employer employing one or more employees. In addition, the law forbids the adoption or enforcement of a requirement that an employee or contractor (including applicants) be vaccinated against COVID-19 as a condition of employment. This means that private employers cannot add vaccination as a requirement for employment, but there’s an exception for healthcare facilities, providers and physicians. 

Healthcare facilities like a hospital, healthcare providers and physicians like doctors or nurses, are allowed to enforce reasonable policies requiring the use of protective medical equipment for those employees or contractors that are not vaccinated against COVID-19. The allowance is mitigated by the level of risk presented to the patients based on the person’s routine and interactions with patients. This type of policy being enforced is explicitly excluded from the definition of adverse action under the new law – this means that employees/contractors at healthcare facilities can maintain their right to not be vaccinated, but still be required to take proper safety precautions. The law only makes an exception for these types of facilities. 

Further, the law is set to be enforced through the Texas Workforce Commission, which means there is no private right of action under the law. What this means for employees, is that there is an administrative requirement for any violations to be reported directly to the Texas Workforce Commission. The Texas Workforce Commission is also directed to determine the reasonableness of healthcare facility policies. The attorney general can also be brought in to file for injunctive relief on behalf of the complainant as well as an administrative penalty can be assessed by the Texas Workforce Commission unless the employer makes strides to remedy and comply with the law. 

As an employee in Texas, it is always important to be able to know and understand the rights afforded to you under new laws that are passed. If you think an employer has violated the law, provided the violation occurs after the effective date, then you should consider filing with the Texas Workforce Commission by submitting your name, the employer’s name and details as to what happened to cause the violation. If your employer has taken action prior to this date because of a COVID-19 vaccination requirement, this law may not apply. However, it does not mean that there are no remedies available – especially if there is a sincerely held religious belief underlying your refusal to receive a vaccination. This law has gone into effect and the changes may apply to your job situation – if you would like more information relating to your rights and possible remedies available to you under the law it would be helpful to reach out to an attorney to discuss your options and situation.