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.
We asked Julie L. St. John, an experienced Trial Attorney in the Houston office of Rob Wiley, P.C., to impart her candid answers to a range of questions. After reading, you will be more more informed on the well-respected reputation that Ms. St. John carries.
1. Why did you start practicing labor and employment law?
Because I care about the rights of employees and believe all workers should be treated fairly.
2. If you could write a new law, what would it do?
Guarantee a living wage for all workers.
3. Besides Rob Wiley, P.C., what is the most interesting job that you have had?
I worked as the beer cart girl at a golf course in college.
4. What’s the best part of living in Houston?
Houston is clearly the best city in Texas, way better than Austin or Dallas. The people are wonderful, and the food is delicious. The only downside is the traffic, which is why I refuse to go outside of the loop (with a key exception for Ikea).
5. If you were not practicing labor and employment law what would you be?
I would start a gardening/landscaping company with animals that do the work. The goats would eat the weeds, the pigs would till the ground, and the chickens would keep the bugs away.
6. Why did you decide to become a lawyer?
To have another tool to use to fight for things I believe in. I’ve always wanted to change the world.
7. What do you do when you’re not practicing law?
Travel, watch Ohio State football, and work to make my cat instafamous.
8. What’s your favorite legal movie
The Pelican Brief because it features Tulane Law!
9. Have you ever learned something from one of your clients?
I learn something from almost all of my clients. Most importantly, courage.
10. Who do you most admire as a lawyer?
Julie L. St. John is a Trial Attorney in the Houston office of Rob Wiley, P.C. She graduated from Ohio State University with her bachelor’s degree in 2007. Ms. St. John then graduated from Tulane University School of Law in 2017.
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.
When you have found an attorney who is willing to file a lawsuit on your behalf, or perhaps you have decided to file one yourself pro se, you may think this guarantees your day in court. After all, the Seventh Amendment of the United States Constitution states: “In Suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury, shall be otherwise reexamined in any Court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law.”
Unfortunately, layoffs happen and oftentimes come as a complete surprise to those affected. Layoffs also oftentimes come with a severance offer.
Sometimes an employer just offers up the severance free and clear without the employees who have been laid off having to do anything at all to receive it. However, this is not the norm. More often getting the severance is made contingent on the employee signing a severance agreement.
Severance agreements are legal documents and can be incredibly complicated and confusing and leave employees wondering what to do. On the one hand, an employee who has just lost their job clearly wants the money. But on the other hand, that employee may be concerned about what they are giving up in exchange for that money. They also may be wondering if they can get more money. The best way to know for sure is to consult with a Texas Employment Lawyer.
Imagine this scenario. You have been hired for a new job in Texas. You go in for your first day at your new job and your new employer gives you a bunch of paperwork to fill out. Most of it is run-of-the-mill stuff like tax forms and direct deposit information that you have no issue completing. I mean, you want to get paid after all. But there is one document in the bunch that you are unfamiliar with. It’s an arbitration agreement. You might be thinking . . . “What is this?” “Do I have to sign this?” “What am I giving up if I sign this?” This blog is designed to give you the basics.
Continue Reading What is Arbitration?
Unfortunately, we are living in a day and age when a lot of people are being laid off, furloughed, or terminated. According to an article in the Texas Tribune, more than 1.5 million workers in Texas filed for unemployment benefits with the Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) from mid-March to mid-April. This is a staggering number. Additionally, many people have had to quit their jobs because of COVID related issues. This post will generally describe who can apply for unemployment benefits, the process people go through after applying for benefits, the standards TWC relies on to decide if an individual applying for benefits will get them, and the appeal rights for workers who are denied benefits to which they believe they are entitled.
In the face of a global pandemic, workplaces as we know them have drastically changed. Working from home has become common place, jobs that were undervalued in our society are now seen as essential, and workplaces once seen as safe now have increasing health and safety risks. The circumstances in this essentially unprecedented time serve as an important reminder to why we fight for the rights of workers and why it is so important to continue advancing that fight.
Continue Reading COVID-19 is an important reminder why we fight for employee rights