Houston Employment Law Blog

New overtime rule may be released

Workers in the Houston area may be under new guidelines regarding overtime in the future, but it is unclear how long the process will take. In May 2016, an overtime rule issued by the Department of Labor raised the minimum salary allowing so-called "white-collar" exemptions to overtime to $47,476 from $23,660. The "highly compensated" exemption level went to $134,004 from $100,000. Furthermore, every three years, there were supposed to be automatic increases.

However, these changes were subsequently found to be invalid by a federal district court in Texas later that year, and after initially appealing, the DOL decided to write a new rule instead. It is anticipated that the white-collar exemption will be in the low $30,000 range.

What to know about disclosing mental illness

Roughly 15 percent of the world's population has a disability. According to the American Health Association, approximately 75 percent of employees throughout the country have a mental health issue. However, some Texas workers may choose not to disclose their illnesses because they fear negative consequences for doing so. The downside to not disclosing a mental illness could be the impact it has on an individual's overall health.

The Americans with Disabilities Act generally requires employers to provide their disabled workers with reasonable accommodations. Therefore, disclosing a mental illness may make it possible to get the accommodations needed to do a job properly. Ideally, employers will do their part to make workers feel comfortable about disclosing their mental illness. By creating an inclusive environment for all workers, everyone has the opportunity to reach their full potential. This may allow a company to reach its full potential as well.

Could mandatory reporting close the gender pay gap?

The discussion surrounding the gender wage gap has gained traction in the past year. Women around the country are speaking out about unequal pay. Many employers have increased their efforts to close the gap. Others continue to pay women less than men for performing the same work.

Many workers’ rights advocates suggest the government should pass legislation to mandate the reporting of gender pay discrepancies. According to a recent study published in the Harvard Business Review, this could be just the tool to help close the gender wage gap.

Important points about the Equal Pay Act

Texas workers are likely covered under the Equal Pay Act (EPA). It was designed to make sure that individuals were being paid based on their performance and role with a company as opposed to their gender. The EPA in the United States was passed in the 1960s at about the same time as other important legislation such as the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

This legislation was aimed at promoting an equal workplace based on race as well as gender and other attributes. The EPA itself was meant to strengthen an earlier piece of legislation called the Fair Labor Standards Act that was passed in 1938. Additionally, the 2009 Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act made the EPA even stronger by allowing workers to pursue back payments indefinitely if they were improperly paid based on gender. Employees may also seek a pay raise comparable to what others in a similar role make.

Court Lowers Bar to Collect Benefits

The standard of review utilized by a district court in a denial of benefits case can be outcome determinative. Either the court will examine the administrative record and make its own determination as to a participant's eligibility for benefits (the de novo standard) or simply assure itself that the plan administrator's decision to deny benefits "falls somewhere on a continuum of reasonableness" (the abuse of discretion standard). Corry v. Liberty Life Assurance Co. of Boston, 499 F.3d 389, 398 (5th Cir. 2007). Needless to say, a plan administrator's decision to deny benefits is given great deference, and routinely upheld, under the abuse of discretion standard.
Recently, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals overruled its longstanding precedent to reject the notion that plan administrators are inherently entitled to discretion. Ariana M. v. Human Health Plan of Tex., 884 F.3d 246, 255 (5th Cir. 2018). As a result, courts must now apply the de novo standard of review unless the benefit plan itself expressly delegates discretion to the plan administrator.

Latina workers confront the gender pay gap

For Latina workers in the Houston area, a significant gender pay gap continues to hold women back from their full potential earnings. There are over 11 million Latina workers across the country, but statistics show that they face the highest pay disparity of all female workers. On average, a Latina worker receives 53 cents for every dollar made by a white male worker. The gap holds up for women in full-time employment, who earn around 80 cents for every dollar paid to men also working full time. There are a number of factors that contribute to pay inequality, including over-representation of Latinas in service work jobs with limited access to benefits.

However, it is not only women in marginalized or entry-level occupations who face problems with equal pay. The pay gap remains visible even for Latina professionals and executives. In particular, pay gaps continue to be significant within the same industry; Latina women working in sales are typically paid 52 cents for every dollar earned by a white man. Latinas in management earn 60 cents to the white male dollar. While the median pay for white men working in chief executive positions is over $108,000, Latina chief executives take home a median salary of $71,361.

Restaurants are no stranger to wage inequality

Everybody wants to be paid fairly for doing a fair day’s work. We are learning, however, that the unfortunate truth is that equitable wages are far out of reach in many positions. Often times these less-than-fair discrepancies in pay run along gender lines.

A recent survey released by Gecko Hospitality has shed light on the salaries earned by individuals in the restaurant industry. This survey, the Restaurant Management Salary Survey Report, has been collecting and releasing data for 3 years. The report for 2017 shows dramatic wage gaps between male and female workers in positions ranging from hourly workers to directors of operations.

Match Group CEO finds company pays women equally

Mandy Ginsburg took over as the CEO of Match Group in 2017. Business Insider states the company that owns dating apps like Tinder, OKCupid, Match and Plenty of Fish had a reputation as a boy’s club environment. Ginsburg vowed to make the company friendlier to women.

One of her first steps was to audit the salaries of the men and women that worked at Match. Her audit revealed her female employees were paid 100 percent equally. Ginsburg was so surprised by the results that she hired an outside auditor, Syndio, to verify the findings.

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