Houston Employment Law Blog

Experiencing unequal pay? Here’s are some tips to narrow the gap

Pay equity issues continue to be a hot topic of debate as women have historically been paid less – as much as 20% less than men for the same tasks. While the gender pay gap has been slowly improving since the 1970’s and solutions are continually being discussed there is definitely still a gap.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, weekly earnings for men and women differ between $114 for those aged 25 to 34 and gradually increases to a staggering $289 difference when men and women reach the ages of 55 to 64 years old.

U.S. women's soccer team and equal pay

Soccer fans in Texas and around the country may have cheered in July when the United States national women's team won their fourth FIFA World Cup, but they may not be aware that the historic match kicked off just a few months after the team filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Soccer Federation. In the lawsuit, the women's team alleges that the USSF violated the Equal Pay Act by paying them less than the men's team for performing the same work.

Plaintiffs who file lawsuits for violations of the EPA must establish that they were paid less than a worker of the opposite sex for performing work that required the same skills under similar working conditions. Once this has been accomplished, the defendant may raise one of four affirmative defenses. They could claim that the difference in pay was the result of seniority, merit, differences in production or work quality, or any other reason not related to gender. However, plaintiffs may still prevail in equal pay cases if these reasons are shown to be pretexts.

Enhanced protections for people with disabilities

For decades, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) has provided some basic protections for people experiencing a variety of mental and physical disabilities. In 2008, major amendments were made to the law to broaden protections. These changes were made to protect people in Texas and other states who had been previously excluded from the ADA due to narrow standards. It also strengthens protections for a subset of people that fell under the "regarded as" clause of the law.

The Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act of 2008 (ADAAA) defines a disability as any mental or physical impairment that limits one's ability to participate in major life activities. For the purposes of the law, major life activities include eating, sleeping, walking, standing, concentrating, working, and any other activities that are part of ordinary life. Inquiries involving "regarded as" claims were restricted to whether or not an impairment existed and what actions a party took to violate protects for the impairment.

New rule gives small businesses more retirement benefit options

If you work for a small business, there’s a good chance your employer does not offer retirement benefits. A new rule by the Department of Labor could make it easier for your employer to offer retirement benefits.

The rule makes it easier for small employers to team up and offer retirement plans together, like a 401 (k) plan. Small businesses can now join a group that offers a retirement plan without being in the same industry.

An overview of equal pay laws

Per the Equal Pay Act (EPA) of 1963, workers in Texas and other states are to be paid equally for equal work regardless of their gender. However, there is still a gender pay gap that sees women make an average of 82 cents for every $1 a man makes. This is partially because the EPA allows companies to pay employees on a different scale if it is based on seniority or merit.

A report released in 2010 by the U.S. Congress Joint Economic Committee found that discrimination still plays a role in the lingering gender gap. The American Association of University Women also determined that discrimination was the cause for at least a portion of the gender wage gap. In an effort to make the EPA stronger, lawmakers have proposed the Paycheck Fairness Act. If it is passed, it will prevent workers from being retaliated against prior to filing a lawsuit.

Soccer becomes a game of hiding the dollar

Women have come a long way in the workplace, but there is still a long way to creating an atmosphere of fair compensation. While the arguments should be simple, they quickly get complex when employers start comparing the contributions of men versus women.

Professional soccer is no stranger to the debate over equal pay. In a suit that has been in progress since 2016, the Women’s National Team is fighting for equal pay for their skill on the field.

New law in Texas secures minimum wage for those with disabilities

Texas Governor Greg Abbott signed Senate Bill 753 into law in June, guaranteeing minimum wages for workers with disabilities across the state. Prior to this change, employers could pay a person with disabilities as little as $2 an hour due to a provision in the Federal Labor Standards Act of 1938.

Although this new law is a substantial step forward for Texas, federal law still allows people to be paid less for their work if they have a disability. However, this latest move toward wage equality might represent a broader change.

Why it can be hard to diagnose fibromyalgia

If you don't suffer from fibromyalgia, you might not understand the condition. Since it's largely invisible and there's no single, known source, some people may question if it even exists. But if you suffer from fibromyalgia, you know the pain and fatigue are real.

You might also find yourself dealing with a bad faith denial of your disability benefits. Insurance companies are always looking for ways to excuse themselves from making payments. They often deny fibromyalgia claims because they think they can get away with challenging the diagnosis.

Lawsuit accuses Houston energy company of ADA violation

A Houston-based multinational energy company has been accused of discriminating against one of its former workers in a complaint filed on June 24 in the Harris County District Court. The 66-year-old Brazoria County resident alleges in his litigation that the Phillips 66 Company violated the Americans with Disabilities Act by terminating his employment after he took leave under the provisions of the Family and Medical Leave Act.

In his lawsuit, the many claims that he was placed on administrative leave in May 2018 and fired a month later. The man says that he was not notified about any violations he had committed before he was let go and was not subject to any disciplinary action at the time of his termination. The man underwent back surgery in 2017 and requested FMLA leave after injuring his back in April 2018. He was placed on administrative leave just days after being medically cleared to return to work.

ERISA: What it is and how it impacts millions of workers

There is a lot to keep track of when it comes to understanding the health and retirement plans your job offers. Thick bundles of documents show up in your mailbox, links to plan information clutter your email, and you get to sort through it all.

Employers don’t just do this on a whim. There is actually a federal law known as ERISA – the Employee Retirement Income Security Act – that outlines minimum standards for how companies handle those health and retirement plans, as well as how information gets communicated to you. Because more than half of American workers earn these types of benefits from their job, it’s a good idea to have an understanding of what ERISA is and how it is set up to protect people.

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

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