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Houston Employment Law Blog

Former women employees at Google report discrimination

People in the Houston area may have heard about an engineer at Google who was fired because of a document he released arguing that women were biologically less likely to have the skills to work in technical careers. Several women who used to work at the company have alleged that sexism, racism and ageism there made them leave. Women reported not seeing a future for themselves at the company, hearing sexist and racist jokes and facing discrimination in terms of promotions and other aspects of their jobs.

One Asian woman said a coworker had told her she must have had an easy time getting her job because Asians are good at math. She said this was typical of comments that built up over time. A black woman reported that she felt unwelcome and was frequently asked for identification while on the Google premises when her white coworkers were not. She said prioritizing diversity was discouraged and that she felt invisible while working for the company.

Former employees take legal action against Amazon

Texas employers are charged with not allowing a hostile work environment to fester. It has bee reported that two former Amazon employees are suing the company claiming that they were harassed on the job. One of the plaintiffs in the case was a transgender woman who claims that she was called a variety of names such as he/she by managers and supervisors.The woman also claimed that those within the company would use male pronouns and make it difficult to use the women's restroom.

The other plaintiff is the woman's partner, and he also claimed sexual harassment and other forms of hostility on the job. The man claimed that he was touched in a sexual manner and was offered pornography and sex toys from one of his employees. According to the Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund, neither were allowed to make complaints about the alleged harassment in writing.

DOL backs employee seeking retirement benefits

Texas auto workers may be interested to learn that, on July 28, the Department of Labor filed an amicus brief that supported a Chrysler Group LLC retiree who was seeking to recover enhanced early retirement benefits. According to the court documents, the retiree was seeking the right to pursue equitable claims against his plan after being denied benefits due to undisclosed plan terms.

Earlier, a magistrate judge and a federal district judge both determined that the retiree was not eligible to receive additional benefits under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act due to his inability to show that the company intended to deceive him with regards to his benefits. The DOL objected to this standard as summary plan descriptions are often the only documents available when it comes to explaining employees' rights and responsibilities.

Can I pump milk at work?

If you are a mother in Texas who is breastfeeding, you may wonder what your rights are in this area. For example, can you take breaks to express milk? Where can you do so?

In general, the answers are positive, and they apply for one year after the birth of the child.

Court rules single incidents can create hostile conditions

Texas employers may believe that a single incident of harassment isn't enough to create a hostile working environment. However, according to a July 14 ruling from the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia, this is not necessarily the case. The ruling says that if an incident is extreme enough, it may constitute a hostile workplace on its own.

The case that led to the ruling involved two African-American workers who were removing a fence. According to their complaint, a supervisor used a racial slur and threatened to fire them if the job was not done correctly. The workers were fired two weeks after complaining about the incident to another supervisor. While the workers were eventually rehired, they were terminated because the company claimed that there was a lack of work.

Tipped employees an the 80/20 rule in pay disputes

The provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act require most employers in Texas and around the country to pay their workers at least the federal minimum wage and overtime rates when they work more than 40 hours during a workweek. Workers who allege that their employers violated the law are often able to support their claims with documents such as time cards and pay stubs, but these cases can be more difficult to prove when the workers involved receive some of their compensation in the form of tips.

Tipped employees like restaurant servers are not generally protected by the provisions of wage and hour laws, but they are entitled to receive minimum wage for non-tipped side work under the FLSA when they perform two or more jobs. Work that is tip-related but non-tipped, such as waiters or waitresses clearing or setting tables, is not covered by the 1938 statute.

What to know about back pay in discrimination cases

Some Texas workers who are the victims of job discrimination end up filing a lawsuit under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. In some cases, if they prevail they could be entitled to back pay damages to compensate for lost earnings or other benefits lost because of the discrimination. For instance, a worker who was wrongfully terminated may be entitled to wages and other benefits that were lost as a result.

The same may be true if a worker was wrongfully denied a promotion or other chances to advance his or her career. In addition to back pay, a worker may be entitled to the financial value of vacation time, reimbursement for medical costs covered by the employer and pension payments. Bonus payments that were lost because of discrimination may also be covered in a Title VII lawsuit.

How to file a wage claim in Texas

As an hourly employee in Texas, you have a right to minimum wage compensation at $7.25 per hour, the same amount as the federal minimum wage. The state does not, however, have its own overtime laws, which means that your employer must also adhere to overtime guidelines set at the federal level.

Sometimes, you may not receive the amount to which you are entitled. If this happens to you, you may be able to launch an investigation by filing what is known as a wage claim with the Texas Employment Commission. You may, too, be able to take your case to court if you are unable to achieve a satisfactory result following the initial investigation.

Statistics to know wage inequality

Wage discrimination can impact Texas workers and their families, and it can happen to anyone regardless of age, race or gender. According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, around 20 percent of claims made in the past four fiscal years were related to wage discrimination based on age. A slightly smaller percentage were based on disability. Most, however, were associated with race or gender.

Men filed about 15 percent of all claims of wage discrimination during that time period according to the EEOC. If a claim is based on attributes such as age, gender or race, it will likely be filed under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. If a claim is made regarding gender-based wage discrimination, it may be filed under the Equal Pay Act.

Panda Express to pay fine in discrimination case

Texas fast-food employees may be interested to learn that Panda Express has agreed to settle a claim that the chain discriminated against workers who were not American citizens. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, the chain required legal permanent U.S. residents to reverify their work authorization after their original documents expired, even though other workers were not required to do this. Additionally, non-citizens were required to show immigration documents a second time to show they could legally work.

Employers cannot legally ask for documentation of this kind under the Immigration and Nationality Act if the need for these documents is based on the worker's national origin or citizenship status. As such, employers should ensure that their practices comply with federal laws.

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