One would be hard pressed to find someone who does not know that we are afforded free speech under the First Amendment of the United States Constitution. Similarly, we are also afforded the same right under the Texas Constitution Article 1 Section 8. Indeed, there are very few rights that are as well-known as the right to free speech, yet, the implications or effects that this fundamental right has in our workplace are often misunderstood and overestimated. My goal is to help clarify or shed light on a few misconceptions that I often see in my day to day practice.
When someone gets treated unlawfully at their job because of that person’s race, age, gender, sex, sexual orientation, disability, religion, national origin, or color that person suffers more than just loss of income. A person’s job is often tied to their identity, their reputation, their sense of worth, and sense of purpose. Losing a job, not getting a promotion, not getting hired, or being subjected to severe or pervasive harassment causes very real pain and suffering. It can strain friendships, estrange family members, break up marriages, and ruin lives. Because unlawful employment discrimination causes that kind of actual damage, most employment laws allow a person to recover money for those things. In employment law, these damages are called compensatory damages and can be recovered in lawsuits against private employers, state and local government employers, and federal agencies.
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.
One of the questions I get all of the time during consultations is, “what does it mean to be an ‘at will’ employee?” If you have this question, then you are in luck because that is what this week’s blog is all about!
First, “at will” employment is the default employment relationship in the state of Texas. That means if you do not have a contract or agreement defining some other type of employment relationship with your company, then you are an “at will” employee. By far, most employees are “at will” employees.
Every day our office receives calls and online inquiries from workers seeking legal advice. They want to know whether their boss’s actions are illegal and whether they have claims to pursue. And, if the answer to both of those questions is yes, they have to think about whether they are ready to take action to protect their rights. But still, before even contacting an attorney they may be afraid. They don’t know when they need an attorney, how long to wait before contacting an attorney, or even if contacting an attorney is the right choice for them. That’s why consultations are a very important part of the practice of law.
How do I know I need an employment attorney?
If you are even asking this question the safest answer is seek a consultation.
Do you find yourself in a situation where you are being discriminated at work, but you have no idea what to even do beyond going to HR? This is probably one of the most common scenarios I encounter during consultations. What I’d like to do is go over some very basic things to keep in mind if you find yourself in a situation where you suspect that you are the victim of discrimination.
Documentation is king.
The very first thing to do is take stock of the documents you have that are related to your employment. For example, any type of disciplinary documents, employee handbook, company memos, pertinent emails, termination letter, any complaints that you have filed or sent to anyone at the company like your boss, HR, or a coworker, or anything that may be relevant.
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.
We have all been there. You have gotten the job offer, and all that is left to do is sign the employment agreement. But before you sign that agreement, be sure to read it. In order to properly decide what is the best decision for you to make requires you to weigh all the available information. In this spirit, I’d like to touch upon two employment clauses that are gaining widespread attention. In doing so, I hope to highlight some of the dangers and pitfalls that come along when these clauses are ignored.
Continue Reading Dangers and Pitfalls of Blindly Signing an Employment Contract
“With regard to the letter, [Plaintiff]’s allegation is that he asked Chief Justice Jefferson to keep the letter confidential, not that Chief Justice Jefferson actually did so. In fact, [Defendant alleged that Chief Justice Jefferson did not answer the letter himself, establishing that the letter had not remained confidential. With regard to the disciplinary complaint,…
“[Plaintiff was not required to allege how [Defendant] knew of the letter and complaint, only that [Defendant] knew. Having done so, he has sufficiently pleaded that his letter and his disciplinary complaint precipitated [Defendant]’s allegedly untoward conduct.” Anderson, 2016 WL 6647759, at *5 (footnotes omitted).