TELA Newsfeed


3 Posts found

Posted on: Jan 29, 2021

A Call to Make Texas Laws Work for Texas Workers - TELA Issues Statement Regarding The 2021 Texas Legislative Session

 

January 29, 2021

To: All Texans and their representatives

Re: A Call to Make Texas Laws Work for Texas Workers

I am President of the Texas Employment Lawyers Association (“TELA”) — a voluntary association of lawyers who regularly represent workers in employment matters in Texas. With the 2021 session of the Texas legislature underway, the Texas Employment Lawyers Association (TELA) calls on all members of the Texas House and Senate to advance and enact legislation that will protect and uplift Texas workers.

TELA also calls on all workers, employers, and voters of good conscience to call on their elected officials, in 2021 and beyond, to support bills that will assure Texas workers dignity, respect, safety, and equality in the workplace.

TELA’s stated mission is “to promote and protect the legal rights of employees in the State of Texas.” The over 180 Texas lawyers who are members of TELA have dedicated their careers to representing Texas workers in Texas and federal courts. We understand all too well how protections for Texas workers fall far short of protections provided to US workers in other states.

We are the lawyers and legal aid attorneys who have to turn away employ- ees who have suffered egregious and unjust treatment because there simply aren’t strong enough laws on the books in Texas to protect workers from all types of mistreatment, retaliation, and discrimination.

We see in the rulings that judges make in our clients’ cases how weak worker protections and gaps in Texas law end up denying Texas workers their day in court and the justice they deserve.

We urge the Texas House and Senate, during the 2021 Legislative Session to:

  • Give LGBTQIA+ workers the same legal protections under Texas law as they now have under Federal law (SB 223, HB 188);
  • Increase Texas’ $7.25 per hour minimum wage up to $15 per hour (HB 60, HB 615, HB 250, HB 732)
  • Expand whistleblower protections to include employees who report violations of the law to their supervisors or Human Resources (HB 550)
  • Prohibit discrimination based on hair texture/style in Texas workplaces, schools, and businesses by passing bills (SB 77, HB 38, HB 392)
  • Guarantee Texas workers sick time and medical leave so workers don’t get fired for doing the right thing and staying home when contagious or sick (HB 87, HB 247, HB 1298)
  • Strengthen sexual harassment protections to prohibit sexual harassment of ALL interns and employees, and ban agreements that keep sexual harassment a secret from other employees (SB 209, SB 45, and HB 48)
  • Crack down on employers who commit wage theft and fail to pay workers for the labor they’ve performed (SB 57, HB 405, HB 190)
  • Enact fair hiring protections by banning the box and creating an Equal Pay Act for Texas workers (HB 360, HB 419, & HB 449)
  • Increase the amount of time for Texas workers to file discrimination charges under state law, so that they have the same amount of time that is allowed by federal law (HB 21, HB 405, & HB 449)
  • Make limited liability companies responsible for paying fees, when they refuse to pay for rendered services or performed labor (HB 1358)

The ability of each and every Texas worker to have a fair and equal chance to feed their family should be a concern of all Texas legislators and all Texas voters regardless of political party.

Sincerely,

David L. Wiley

President, Texas Employment Lawyers Association

A copy of this statement may be downloaded here.


29 de enero de 2021

Para: Todos los Texanos y sus representantes

Ref.: Un Llamado para Hacer Que las Leyes de Texas Funcionen para los Trabajadores de Texas

            Yo soy Presidente de la Asociación de Abogados de Empleo de Texas (TELA, por sus siglas en inglés) – una asociación voluntaria de abogados que representan regularmente a trabajadores en asuntos laborales en Texas. Con la sesión 2021 de la legislatura de Texas en marcha, la Asociación de Abogados de Empleo de Texas (TELA, por sus siglas en inglés) pide a todos los miembros de la Cámara de Texas y al Senado de Texas que avancen y promulguen leyes que protejan y eleven a los trabajadores de Texas.

            TELA también hace un llamado a todos los trabajadores, empleadores, y votantes de buena conciencia para que pidan a sus funcionarios electos, en 2021 y más allá, que apoyen proyectos de ley que aseguren a los trabajadores de Texas dignidad, respeto, seguridad, e igualdad en el lugar de trabajo.

            La misión declarada de TELA es “promover y proteger los derechos legales de los empleados en el Estado de Texas.” Los más de 180 abogados de Texas que son miembros de TELA han dedicado sus carreras a representar a los trabajadores de Texas en los tribunales de Texas y federales. Nosotros entendemos muy bien cómo las protecciones para los trabajadores de Texas están muy por debajo de las protecciones proporcionadas a los trabajadores estadounidenses en otros estados.

            Nosotros somos los abogados privados y abogados de asistencia legal que tienen que rechazar a los empleados que han sufrido un trato atroz e injusto porque simplemente no hay leyes suficientemente fuertes en los libros de Texas para proteger a los trabajadores de todo tipo de maltrato, represalias, y discriminación.

            Nosotros vemos en los fallos que toman los jueces en los casos de nuestros clientes cómo las débiles protecciones a los trabajadores y las brechas en la ley de Texas terminan negando a los trabajadores de Texas su día en corte y la justicia que merecen.  

            Nosotros instamos a la Cámara de Texas y al Senado, durante las Sesión Legislativa de 2021 a:

  • Dar a trabajadores LGBTQIA+ las mismas protecciones legales bajo la ley de Texas que ahora tienen bajo la ley Federal (propuestas SB 223, HB 188);
  • Aumentar el salario mínimo de $7.25 por hora en Texas hasta $15 por hora (propuestas HB 60, HB 615, HB 250, HB 732)
  • Ampliar las protecciones de los denunciantes para incluir a los empleados que reporten violaciones de la ley a sus supervisores o Recursos Humanos (propuesta HB 550)
  • Prohibir la discriminación basada en la textura/estilo del cabello en lugares de trabajo, escuelas y negocios de Texas aprobando proyectos de ley (propuestas SB 77, HB 38, HB 392)
  • Garantizar a los trabajadores de Texas tiempo de enfermedad y ausencia médica para que los trabajares no sean despedidos por hacer lo correcto y quedarse en casa cuando están contagiosos o enfermos (propuestas HB 87, HB 247, HB 1298)
  • Fortalecer las protecciones de acoso sexual para prohibir el acoso sexual a TODOS los pasantes y empleados, y prohibir los acuerdos que mantienen el acoso sexual en secreto de otros empleados (propuestas SB 209, SB 45, y HB 48)
  • Reprimir a los empleadores que cometen robo de salarios y no pagan a los trabajadores por el trabajo que han realizado (propuestas SB 57, HB 405, HB 190)
  • Promulgar protecciones de contratación justa prohibiendo la caja y creando una Ley de Igualdad en las Remuneraciones a trabajadores de Texas (propuestas HB 360, HB 419, & HB449)
  • Aumentar la cantidad de tiempo para que los trabajadores de Texas presenten querellas por discriminación bajo la ley estatal, para que tengan la misma cantidad de tiempo que permite la ley federal (propuestas HB 21, HB 405, & HB 449)
  • Hacer que las sociedades de responsabilidad limitada sean responsables de pagar tarifas, cuando se niegan a pagar por los servicios prestados o la mano de obra (propuesta HB 1358)

La capacidad de todos y cada uno de los trabajadores de Texas de tener una oportunidad justa y equitativa de alimentar a su familia debería ser una preocupación de todos los legisladores de Texas y de todos los votantes de Texas independientemente del partido político.

Sinceramente,

David L. Wiley

​​​​​​​

 

Posted on: Jun 8, 2020

 

The Texas Employment Lawyer's Association has issued the following statement regarding this remarkable moment in history:

 

 

 

 

June 8, 2020

 

To Whom it May Concern:

 

The Texas Employment Lawyers Association is a voluntary association of lawyers

who protect the rights of workers throughout the State of Texas. We stand with

people who oppose prejudice and discrimination against black people. We stand

with people who opposed discrimination against black people decades ago and

those opposing it today.

 

We need system-wide change. Piecemeal prosecution of individual instances of

race-based discrimination — in policing, housing, schools, voting, public accommodations,

and employment — can bring change. But we see laws designed decades

ago to guarantee equality being diluted. We see black people denied the right

to have their cases of discrimination heard in their own communities by a jury of

their peers.

 

We need system-wide change. Here are changes we support:

 

We can eliminate the judge-created doctrine of qualified immunity. Government

officials hide from liability for retaliating against those who speak out about discrimination

against black people. Learn more here: https://lpgeorgia.com/endqualifiedimmunity/

 

We can eliminate “summary” judgment in race discrimination cases — the procedural

device by which companies and governments hide discrimination by having

judges, rather than a jury of people from our communities, decide what constitutes

race discrimination. Learn more here: Suja A. Thomas, Why Summary Judgment

Is Unconstitutional, 93 VA. L. REV. 139 (2007) 

 

We need system-wide change. Black Lives Matter.

Sincerely,

 

 

 

David L. Wiley

President, Texas Employment Lawyers Association

 

A copy of this statement may be downloaded here.

 

 

 

 

Posted on: May 6, 2020

 

In this time of national crisis, when many employees are uncertain about their legal rights, the attorneys who are members of the Texas Employment Lawyers Association are here to help Texas employees!

The information on this page includes information about:

  • Unemployment Benefits
  • Pay Requirements for Work Performed at Home, Part-Time Work, and/or Over-Time Hours:
  • Workplace Accommodations for Employees with Disabilities
  • New Paid Sick Leave Benefits under the Family First Coronavirus Response Act:
  • What Employers Can and Cannot Do to Protect the Workplace:
    • Yes
      • Taking Reasonable Precautions to Prevent Transmission and Protect Workplace Safety
    • No
      • National Origin and Race Discrimination:
      • Family and Medical Leave Discrimination & Retaliation:
      • Worker’s Compensation Retaliation
      • Prohibiting Discussions about Working Conditions or Retaliating Against Workers Who Sign Petitions or Collectively Make Safety or Other Requests
  • Important Information if You are Deciding Whether to Complain about Safety Violations in the Workplace or Refuse “Unsafe” Work Assignments:
  • OSHA Protection

This general information is not a substitute for legal advice – so if you or a loved one need legal advice or help about your employment situation, please go to our “Find-a-Lawyer” page and choose a Practice Area (i.e. wrongful termination, unemployment compensation, family or medical leave, etc.) to get a list of attorneys who specialize in assisting individual employees. You do not need to fill in a lawyer’s name or any other fields to search by Practice Area.

 

Resources for Employees During the COVID-19 Crisis

Unemployment Benefits:

You can apply for unemployment benefits if you have been laid off or had your hours reduced due to COVID-19. The state is relaxing certain rules during the COVID-19 crisis, and has eliminated the waiting period for benefits.

The federal government is also planning on providing funding to states with large increases in unemployment benefit applications so it is possible that extended benefits and/or disaster relief benefits will become available even though they are not current available.

It will take diligence and patience to apply for the unemployment benefits you need during this crisis.

  • Information and answers to commonly asked questions is available at https://twc.texas.gov/news/covid-19-resources-job-seekers.
  • Applying online is likely your best and easiest option. You can apply online by clicking here.
  • If the main site is down, try this specific link to register online and apply for benefits: 
  • The telephone # to apply is 800-939-6631. TWC’s Tele-Center is open from 8 a.m.-6 p.m. Central Time Monday through Friday.

If your application for benefits is denied, you will get a notice with instructions on how to file appeal. If you want to appeal, you must file your appeal by the deadline indicated in the notice you receive from the TWC. You will then get a telephonic hearing with hearing officer who has the authority to either reverse or uphold the initial decision.

If you need help appealing denied benefits or have other legal questions about your own individual eligibility for unemployment, you can go to Find-A-Lawyer and choose “Unemployment Compensation” in the practice area field to find an attorney who can assist you.

 

Pay Requirements for Work Performed at Home, Part-Time Work, and/or Over-Time Hours:

The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) requires many, but not all, employers to pay at least the minimum wage for all hours a non-exempt employee works and overtime pay for working over 40 hours per week, regardless of whether the employee works those hours on the job or at home. 

This law can also provide protection for salaried employees who are either misclassified or who have their salary docked or reduced for not working “full-time” or for working at home.

The Department of Labor provides answers to some common FLSA COVID19 related questions here > https://www.dol.gov/whd/healthcare/flu_FLSA.htm.

If you need individual legal advice, go to Find-A-Lawyer and choose “minimum wage/tip sharing”, “overtime hours”, or “unpaid wages” in the Practice Area field to find a lawyer knowledgeable about wage and hour laws and the FLSA.

 

Workplace Accommodations for Employees with Disabilities

 The laws on workplace accommodations for employees with disabilities apply to:

  • any employer with 15 or more employees;
  • federal, state and local government employers;
  • employers that receive certain federal money;
  • unions; and
  • employment agencies

If you work for one of the above, you can ask for a reasonable accommodations if, for example, you (a) can’t be at work because you have COVID-19; (b) have another disability that puts you at a high risk (e.g., heart disease, lung disease, diabetes, HIV); or (c) have a mental-health condition that is caused or aggravated by the pandemic.

You may need to give a doctor’s letter supporting your need for an accommodation. Reasonable accommodations might include teleworking, temporary leave, isolation, or protective equipment. The employer does not have to give an accommodation that would be an undue hardship to its business, but the law requires that both you and your employer work together in good faith to communicate about your specific needs and identify possible accommodations.

For more information, you can also visit Disability Rights Texas’ Question and Answer page about disability discrimination in the age of COVID19.  

 

New Paid Sick Leave Benefits under the Family First Coronavirus Response Act:

On March 18, 2020, Congress passed a new law that provides for Emergency Paid Sick Leave and Emergency Family and Medical Leave for certain employees who work for employers with fewer than 500 employees.

This chart explains who is eligible for these new benefits and how much these benefits pay as compared to traditional FMLA leave:

*A Serious Health Condition is defined by law to include serious conditions that require an overnight inpatient care (i.e. hospitalization), that cause 3 or more days of incapacity and require a certain level of treatment within 30 days (i.e. at least two doctor’s visits, or a doctor’s visit with a follow-up treatment regiment), chronic conditions like asthma, diabetes, or epilepsy, or any period of incapacity related to pregnancy or prenatal care. A Serious Health Condition may include more severe COVID19 symptoms or cases that require overnight hospitalization or cause 3 or more days of incapacity with the required level of medical treatment, but would not apply to mild or brief cold, allergy, or flu symptoms that don’t require overnight inpatient care or cause three or more days of incapacity.

**See, https://www.dol.gov/sites/dolgov/files/WHD/legacy/files/whdfs28m.pdf, for a Fact Sheet on Leave Available to Spouses, Children, and Parents of a Deployed, Injured, or Seriously Ill Servicemember, including the National Guard.

 

Para más información en español, visita la página de Texas RioGrande Legal Aid
For more information in English, you can visit Texas RioGrande Legal Aid’s question and answer page
The U.S. Department of Labor has also published a Fact Sheet for Employees, and Question and Answer page, that may help answer your questions about these new paid sick leave and emergency paid FMLA leave. 

 

If you need individual legal advice about whether you or a spouse are eligible for these new types of paid or partial paid leave or traditional, unpaid FMLA Leave, are having trouble getting approved to take leave, or experience discipline, discharge, or other discrimination after taking such leave, you can go to Find-A-Lawyer and choose “Family or Medical Leave” in the Practice Area field to find a lawyer experienced in this area of law.

 

What Employers Can and Cannot Do to Protect the Workplace:

YES:

Taking Reasonable Precautions to Prevent Transmission and Protect Workplace Safety

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has published guidance on what employers can do in terms of sending sick workers home, requiring medical examinations or taking the temperature of employees, and requiring a doctor’s certification to return to work. Click here to read the guidance.

The Occupational Safety and Hazards Administration, OSHA, has also published guidance on what employers should do to protect workers from COVID19, including guidance and identifying and isolating suspected cases, environmental decontamination, and worker training. Click here to read the guidance.

NO:

National Origin and Race Discrimination:

An employer can never single someone out for discriminatory treatment due to their national origin or race. Title VII and 42 U.S.C. section 1981 protect workers from national origin discrimination and race discrimination.

An employer will more than 15 employees also cannot discriminate against employees because of their age, pregnancy, pre-existing disability status, gender, or religion.

The question of whether an employer has legitimate business reasons for its actions or is singling out or otherwise discriminating against an employee is a questions are member attorneys are very experience analyzing, so if you need legal advice about your individual situation, you can go to Find-A-Lawyer and choose “Discrimination” or “Racial Harassment” in the Practice Area field to find a lawyer experienced in this area of the law.

 

Family and Medical Leave Act Discrimination & Retaliation:

Employers who are covered by the Family and Medical Leave Act and the new Families First Coronavirus Response Act cannot discriminate or retaliate against workers for taking the new Emergency Paid Sick Leave, Emergency Family and Medical Leave, or traditional Family and Medical Leave. If you need advice about taking leave or about discrimination or retaliation you’ve experienced after taking leave, you can go to Find-A-Lawyer and choose “Family or Medical Leave” in the Practice Area field to find a lawyer experienced in this area of law.

 

Workers Compensation Retaliation:

Employers who have workers compensation insurance cannot discriminate or retaliate against workers for reporting workplace injuries or filing workers compensation claims. If you need advice after experiencing discrimination or retaliation due to a workers compensation injury or claim, you can go to Find-A-Lawyer and choose “Retaliation” in the Practice Area field to find a lawyer experienced in this area of law.

 

Prohibiting Discussions about Working Conditions or Retaliating Against Workers Who Sign Petitions or Collectively Make Safety or Other Requests

Employers cannot prohibit workers from talking to each other about working conditions, such as pay and leave policies, workplace safety, etc., Employers cannot retaliate against workers for expressing concerns about their working conditions to their co-workers verbally or on social media, cannot retaliate against workers for circulating or signing petitions about working conditions or workplace safety, and cannot retaliate against workers for attempting to unionize or supporting a unionization effort. 
The National Labor Relations Act is the law that makes it an unfair labor practice for an employer to prohibit communication and collective action amongst workers. If you need advice after experiencing discrimination or retaliation due to your communications with your co-workers, social media posts, advocacy, petition, or unionization efforts, you can go to Find-A-Lawyer and choose “Retaliation” in the Practice Area field to find a lawyer experienced in this area of law.

 

Important Information if You are Deciding Whether to Complain about Safety Violations in the Workplace or Refuse “Unsafe” Work Assignments:

Texas whistleblower laws are very narrow, and do not protect all types of complaints or all employees.

You may have whistleblower protection under Texas state law if:

  • You are a state government, city, county, or public employee and you complain about a legal violation of a Federal or state law;
  • You are a doctor, nurse, or other employee or contractor working at a hospital or other qualifying “mental health facility or treatment facility” and report a violation of a Federal or state law or a violation of a rule of a Federal or state agency to your supervisor, administrator, state regulatory agency, or law enforcement agency; or
  • You are a nurse who has requested a safe harbor peer review or has refused to engage in or reported conduct that would violate his/her duty to a patient, Board of Nursing rules or expose a patient to a serious risk of harm (for more details, see this site.); or
  • You are employed by a private employer, are asked to perform a criminal act (or violate a law that carries criminal penalties), and refuse to perform that criminal act.

 

 

Texas RioGrande Legal Aid has posted Questions and Answers about whether employees have protection for refusing to violate a shelter-in-place order in English, y en Español. Employees should be aware that the answer to this question greatly depends on the wording of the particular local order at issue, whether it carries criminal penalties, and whether the employee works for an employer that is exempt from the shelter-in-place order under the order’s definition(s) of essential businesses, essential retail, essential critical infrastructure, and essential services supporting essential businesses.  

Also, anti-discrimination laws, prohibit employers with 15 or more employees from retaliation against employees who report sexual or racial harassment,  or race, national origin, gender, pregnancy, age, disability, or religious discrimination.

 

OSHA Protection:

You DO have protection from retaliation if you file a complaint with OSHA, the Federal Occupational Safety & Hazard Administration. 

You may also have protection under these laws if you refuse to perform an unsafe task. We do not yet know what tasks OSHA will consider safe or unsafe during the COVID19 outbreak, and simply requiring you to continue to go to work may not be considered an unsafe task, especially if the employer is taking precautions such as increased cleaning or disinfecting work spaces, staggering shifts, providing personal protective equipment, encouraging hand-washing, discouraging or prohibiting the sharing of equipment, etc. 

You cannot sue your employer for this type of retaliation in a court of law. You will need to file a retaliation complaint with OSHA within 30 days of the act of retaliation. The hotline number for reporting safety violations to OSHA and instructions on how to file OSHA retaliation complaints can be found here.

If you need advice about engaging in whistleblower activity or about retaliation you’ve experience on the job, you can go to Find-A-Lawyer and choose “Retaliation” in the Practice Area field to find a lawyer experienced in this area of law.

 

Our thanks to TELA member Christine Hopkins of Tremain Artaza, PLLC for drafting the content for this page.           

Last Updated: March 27, 2020           

TELA Officers