Kalandra Wheeler
Texas Employment Lawyer Kalandra Wheeler

As most employment lawyers in Texas will tell you, we have the doctrine of at-will employment. At-will employment means that employees have very few protections in the workplace. At-will employment means that even after a 20-year career with a company, if new management comes in and decides to “shake things up” by firing the old guard and bringing in the new, unless there was an unlawful motivation, they can do this. The employees with 20 years of tenure with the company could be entirely without recourse.  

 What is written into the law (as well as what is not) determines whether a motivation is unlawful. We have federal and state laws that protect employees from discrimination based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, age, and disability.  We have federal laws and state laws that protect employees from being ripped off by those employers that think it is perfectly fine to steal wages from their employees. We have federal law that protects an employee’s overtime pay. We also have federal laws that are designed to ensure safe working conditions for employees working in various industries.  

If there is a conflict between federal and state law, federal law will prevail. This is the doctrine of preemption at work, which is based on the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution. Similarly, if there is conflict between state and local law, state law preempts the local. Yet, where there is no conflict between a high authority (e.g., federal law) and lower (e.g., state), or where state or local law is designed to provide more protections than federal law, the protections can stand.  

They stand until lawmakers take them away.

State and local laws apply to people who live or work in a specific state, county, city, municipality, or town.  When looking at our various levels of government, it is easy to see that it is our local government that is closest to our day-to-day lives. It is the elected officials of our counties, cities, towns, and villages that know what the people in their locality want, and more importantly need.  

With that being said, shame on you Texas. Not all of Texas; Texas I love you. However, the power grab that is known as the Death Star bill (HB 2127), is very disheartening. Despite being born and raised in Texas, I can certainly be disappointed by the politics. 

On May 24, 2023, Death Star landed on the Governor’s desk, where it now waits to be signed. When signed, it may very well bring destruction to a city or small town near you. State Sen. Brandon Creighton(R) is quoted stating the bill is aimed at “activist cities.”  What he is really saying is that the bill is aimed at cities that listen to their residents or constituents, know and understand their needs, and work to protect their interests by creating local ordinances specific to the communities they serve. 

House Bill 2127 restricts the ability of local elected officials to regulate in a number of areas important to their residents by banning ordinances related to state codes for Agriculture, Business and Commerce, Finance, Insurance, Natural Resources, Property, Occupations and Labor.

For employment law, what this bill means is that local officials cannot create ordinances related to employment leave, hiring and firing, rest breaks, pay, employment benefits, or “any other terms of employment that exceed or conflict” with state or federal law.

With Texas being one of the states showing little concern for protecting the rights of workers, what little power local leaders had to make things just a bit better for their residents is being stripped away. 

Where workers had found a way to make strides locally, our state government is determined to take those gains away.  Workers must ban together and keep fighting. Work even harder to remove elected officials from state government that have very little regard for the lives of everyday working people. Every vote count in every election.  

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Photo of Kalandra N. Wheeler Kalandra N. Wheeler

We asked Kalandra N. Wheeler, a Trial Attorney in the Houston office of Wiley Wheeler, P.C., to provide her sincere answers to a range of questions.  After reading, you will be more more abreast with the understanding and competency that Ms. Wheeler

We asked Kalandra N. Wheeler, a Trial Attorney in the Houston office of Wiley Wheeler, P.C., to provide her sincere answers to a range of questions.  After reading, you will be more more abreast with the understanding and competency that Ms. Wheeler brings.

1.Why did you start practicing labor and employment law?

I wanted to be able to help people that otherwise might not find help. Labor and employment laws affect most of society.  And – whether our results help one or many – our work and efforts as employment lawyers touch people in a real way in their every day lives.

2. Who is your favorite Supreme Court Justice?

Thurgood Marshall.

3. What do you think is the most important part of a good case?

The client. Good facts and evidence are definitely important. But good clients are a lawyers’ most valuable asset.  A good client: (1) is invested in their case; (2) works or worked hard for their employer; (3) can tell their story clearly and concisely; and (4) is someone that a jury will find sympathetic and relatable.

4. If you could write a new law, what would it do?

The Texas Workplace Anti-Bullying law.  I hear the stories, the ones told by employees looking for help. And in far too many of those stories the law offers no solution.  Every employee that goes to work and works hard to do the job they are hired to perform should be able to do so without abuse, harassment, and bullying. There is no justification for bullying, not in our schools, and not in our workplaces.

5. Besides Rob Wiley, P.C., what is the most interesting job that you have had?

For a year before law school, I worked as a lube tech for Jiffy Lube.  I spent hot summer days, working on hot cars, changing oil or flushing transmissions or radiators.  I never had a customer come back with a complaint.

6. How do you market yourself differently than others?

I tell clients what they need to hear, not necessarily what they want to hear. Before a client begins down any path toward resolving an employment dispute, they need thoughtful, honest advice. I am a believer in justice and everyday people deserve competent representation in an arena that is difficult for non-lawyers to navigate.

7. What do you do when you’re not practicing law?

I spend time with family and friends.  I read true crime books.  I sew and draw.

8. How would you describe the color yellow to someone who could not see?

It’s not the intense heat of the sun during the month of August, but instead the softness of the sun on your skin just as the seasons change from Summer to Fall.  It’s warm. And soft to the touch.  It’s fresh squeezed lemonade with a hint of sugar.  Slightly cool, inviting, and happy.

9. What’s your favorite legal TV show?

Law & Order: SVU

10. If you could argue any case in history, what would it be?

The Karen Silkwood case. But really, I think that would be more about arguing and trying a case alongside Gerry Spence for the learning experience.

Kalandra N. Wheeler is a Trial Attorney in the Houston office of Wiley Wheeler, P.C.  She graduated from The University of Houston with a bachelor’s degree in political science.  Ms. Wheeler went on and received her law degree from The University of Arkansas.