Houston Employment Law Blog

When will pay equity arrive for Texas women?

Laws about equal pay for equal work regardless of gender have been on the books for years. But for Texas women specifically, the question of pay equity remains a difficult one. Last year a study by the Dallas Women's Foundation reported that if things continue the way they are going, it might take until 2049 for equal pay to exist in Texas. 

Companies show signs of working to address pay inequities

Pay inequities due to gender, race and more have long affected employees across Texas and the U.S. While the pay gap due to gender has narrowed slightly since the 1980s, it has made little progress over the past 15 years. According to the Pew Research Center, in just 2018, women made 85% of what men made.

However, SHRM reports that 60% of U.S. companies have committed themselves to addressing and resolving pay inequity issues. Moreover, the majority of employers have chosen to focus on pay inequity issues due to both gender and race, with some also analyzing other demographic factors that may contribute to pay equity issues.

Understand your legal rights if you are denied overtime

Many Texans rely on overtime pay as a significant portion of their income. If an employee works beyond 40 hours in a workweek and gets paid hourly, they should receive overtime. Unfortunately, there are employers who will deprive workers of these wages by using various illegal tactics. If you are confronted by this violation, there are legal remedies to pursue.

The overtime laws require that an hourly worker receive as much as 1.5 times their rate for every extra hour worked over 40 hours. One way employers may avoid paying overtime is improperly classifying an employee. They will say that the employee's status makes them exempt from the law. This is a practice that harms workers.

Pay inequality in the workplace: what do the statistics suggest?

Most women would likely attest that they work at least as hard as men do to achieve their occupational position. And despite the hours of study, financial loans and sacrifice that you dedicated to your profession, you still might not receive equal pay for performing the same work duties as a man in your role.

Some men disagree that pay inequality affects women in the workforce. Yet, women must continue fighting for the right to receive equal pay for their performance and contributions to their places of employment. If you do not think women earn lower salaries than men in similar positions, look at what the statistics suggest.

Should you accept a lump-sum pension buyout?

Would you rather have monthly income through the rest of your life or a big check now that you can use and invest for yourself? If you haven’t already had to face this question, a recent decision from the Treasury Department has increased the chances you’ll face it later.

As CNN reports, the Treasury recently abandoned the Obama-era decision to discourage lump-sum buyouts of pension plans. This has led business across the country to start lining up potential buyouts, and though most economists argue against accepting these buyouts, retirees continue to accept them.

ERISA and the Supreme Court: 4 cases that could affect you

The longer you work and the more money you invest in your retirement account, the more you want to make sure it’s safe and protected. To that end, the government introduced the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA).

ERISA protects your benefits plans. It sets strict standards for how your employer manages those plans. Your employer must be transparent in its operation of your benefits and must manage them in your best interests. But it’s sometimes hard to know if an employer is truly working in its employees’ best interests because the investments fueling their benefits can be unpredictable.

Texas congressman pushes for better pay for border patrol agents

The Border Patrol Pay Security Act of 2019, introduced by Rep. Henry Cuellar from the 28th Congressional district of Texas, would improve pay for agents working for U.S. Customs and Border Protection. If approved, H.R. 2335 would allow border agents to regain access to overtime compensation as was previously called for within the Fair Labor Standards Act. By reinstating overtime pay for specific duties, the act would align pay for border agents with the compensation earned by other federal law enforcement agents.

Cuellar said that low pay for border agents has caused a staffing shortage at the CBP. The agency's ongoing difficulty with recruitment and retention has begun to interfere with its ability to perform duties. In addition to inhibiting border security, the insufficient staff levels have caused delays of legal trade at ports of entry, he said.

Disabled worker settles EEOC discrimination lawsuit

Federal law prohibits employers in Texas and around the country from discriminating against workers based on disability, and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is the federal agency tasked with holding companies responsible when this law is violated. A case dealing with these issues involved a woman employed as a server at a Florida restaurant who was fired in 2016 after suffering a series of seizures while on the job.

Employers will often seek to settle these matters discretely to avoid the publicity of a civil trial, which is the path the defendant appears to have taken. On April 23, the EEOC announced that the restaurant had agreed to pay the fired server $31,000 to settle a discrimination lawsuit filed by the agency. In addition to paying the former employee damages, the restaurant has agreed to put a policy into place to prevent future discrimination and train both its management and non-management employees about the laws dealing with equal opportunities in the workplace.

Texas leads the nation in workplace discrimination charges

If you’re facing racial discrimination in Texas, you’re not alone. Texas led the nation last year in charges of racial discrimination in the workplace, as well as for all workplace discrimination charges.

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) recently posted a summary of all the discrimination charges it received through 2018, and Texas was the nation’s greatest offender with 7,482 charges. Of those charges, 2,254 were claims of racial discrimination.

Proposed legislation could expose wage theft

Texas workers can face serious problems on the job, including violation of wage and hour laws. The Texas Workforce Commission has identified thousands of businesses that are engaged in wage theft each year. In some cases, workers are falsely classified as independent contractors when they are actually employees; in other cases, companies refuse to pay out overtime wages or any pay at all. Each year, companies are ordered to pay around $10 million in back wages to workers who file complaints. Even then, around half of the judgments are never paid, and there are few consequences for the recalcitrant companies.

While a lien can be issued in some cases, it may do little to change the practices of companies repeatedly cited for wage and hour violations. One state legislator is proposing a bill that could publicly highlight companies held responsible for wage theft by the workforce commission. In particular, it would list firms that refused to pay out back wages even after being ordered to do so. The information is already public record, but it can only be obtained by people making formal open records requests rather than an online, searchable database widely available to browsers.

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Warren & Siurek, L.L.P.
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Houston, TX 77098

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