Houston Employment Law Blog

Employees might need court orders to collect back pay

Most employers in Texas make a good faith attempt to pay their workers correctly, but abuses do occur. Sometimes, employers fail to pay people what they are owed by ignoring overtime laws, miscalculating wages or applying the wrong wages. When these issues happen, employees might need to seek a court order to force employers to comply.

To be on guard against pay errors and abuses, people should keep any records regarding their hours worked and paychecks that they are given. By cross-checking pay against what is owed, people can catch mistakes right away or have evidence if they need to approach a court. Initially, employees could approach their employers and alert them to mistakes. This might result in a private settlement and the voluntary payment of back pay.

Does the pay gap get worse over time?

The Equal Pay Act (EPA) of 1963 was signed into law to mandate pay equity between men and women. Unfortunately, research shows that, in the long term, it doesn’t always happen.

A new study covering a 15-year period highlighted that women earn less than half what men earn. Between 2001 and 2015, women earned 49 percent on average of what men made.

Court rules about overtime pay for on-call shifts

Some employees in the Houston area who work on-call hours may be entitled to overtime pay they are not getting. A nurse in Ohio filed a claim against her workplace where she was required to be on call on alternating weekends. The hospital paid her regular rate.

The woman worked an average of 25.4 hours during that on-call shift doing tasks such as reviewing reports and meeting with patients. A court found that she was eligible for overtime for two reasons. One had to do with the amount of time she spent doing the tasks and the nature of the tasks. The hospital had argued that since she was not working for the entire period, she was not eligible for overtime. However, the court ruled that this would only be the case if the employee was able to mostly engage in personal activities during the on-call shift. It found that the time she spent on work meant she could not attend to those personal activities.

Is pay secrecy making the pay gap worse?

We learn from an early age that there are certain things that we don’t talk about with strangers. Politics. Religion. Income. Our employers even tell us that we shouldn’t talk about pay with our coworkers.

For some, it can turn into a game to try to figure out who makes what and how they can afford their lifestyle. You may find all kinds of ways to track down what someone makes, but at the end of the day, all the secrecy means women are still getting the short end of the stick.

Not all disabilities come with a wheelchair

You may not have any of the telltale signs of a disability, but when it comes to trying to live the same kind of life as the people around you, it becomes clear that your health condition has more control over your life than you do.

What may have started as a minor pain or discomfort, has changed and transformed. The progression of your condition may have been exactly what your doctor predicted, but it still has started to impact your daily life in ways you never imagined. Now you find yourself unable to work and dependent on safety nets that you hoped you would never need.

Disabilities, the ADA and employment

Texas residents with disabilities may have legal recourse if they suspect that they are victims of employment discrimination. Under the federal American with Disabilities Act of 1990, it is illegal to engage in employment discrimination against individuals with qualified disabilities.

The entities that are required to comply with the law include employment agencies, labor-management committees, local and state governments, private employers and labor organizations. The employment practices covered by the ADA include all employment-related activities, such as promotions, job assignments, recruitment, benefits, firing, compensation, hiring and training. The ADA also prohibits employers from seeking reprisals against the employees who assert their rights under the ADA.

Four ways to fight for pay equity at work

Despite the efforts of feminism, women are still paid significantly less than men. Women earn 83 cents for every dollar men earn in the U.S. The World Economic Forum also estimates it will take 168 years to close the gender pay gap in North America. Women also hold fewer leadership positions within companies, even though they have 60 percent of the undergraduate degrees in the country.

For women in the workplace, reading numbers like these can be incredibly disheartening. However, there are certain steps women can take to fight for pay and gender equality in their workplaces.

Overtime rule overhaul delayed until March 2019

The United States Department of Labor is contemplating a change that could affect overtime laws for workers in Texas. The Fair Labor Standards Act has set a threshold salary below which workers must be paid overtime for working more than 40 hours in a week. The DOL intends to raise the threshold amount but has pushed back the change until March 2019.

The current threshold salary is $23,660 a year. Efforts during the Obama administration failed to raise the nonexempt level to $47,476. The current DOL intends to raise the threshold to between $30,000 and $35,000. However, some experts believe that the current delays could lead to a chain of events that ultimately puts the $47,476 level into effect.

ERISA - New Regulations

The Department of Labor recently strengthened the procedural safeguards governing claims for disability benefits provided by employee benefit plans. The new regulations are designed to ensure that all claims and appeals for disability benefits are given a full and fair review. For example, an adverse benefit determination must include: (1) an explanation of the basis for the decision; (2) an explanation of the scientific or clinical judgment underlying the adverse determination or an offer to provide such explanation free of charge; (3) the rules, guidelines or other criteria within the benefit plan relied upon to deny benefits; (4) a statement that the claimant is entitled to receive upon request and free of charge copies of all records, documents and other information relevant to the claim for benefits; and (5) a description of the applicable appeal procedures. A failure to comply with these disclosure requirements may result in the claimant's right to seek immediate relief in federal court.

Are experience caps discriminatory?

It’s becoming increasingly difficult for people with several years of experience to find jobs. If you have ever been a job seeker with a few grey hairs, you have probably felt at least a bit of the sting that comes with being turned away for your age.

Age discrimination when applying for a position is still discrimination and very much illegal – employers have found a new way to try to circumvent this, however. Some job posting are now stating a “maximum” amount of experience applicants may have.

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Warren & Siurek, L.L.P.
3334 Richmond Avenue, Suite 100
Houston, TX 77098

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