There are two main categories of employment cases that Hoppenstein Law Firm handles: wage and hour disputes, and employment discrimination.
Wage and Hour Disputes:
Are you being paid fairly by your employer? There are many tricks that some unscrupulous employers use to reduce or withhold the wages that their employees have earned. If any of these common violations have happened to you, you may have a claim:
• Are you being paid on “salary” but are forced to work overtime?
Certain white collar employees who do bona fide managerial, executive, or professional functions are properly qualified as exempt from the Fair Labor Standards Act and do not need to be paid overtime. However, for most jobs, if you work more than 40 hours per week you must be paid overtime, regardless of a company’s internal policies.
• Are you being paid for all the hours that you work?
Many companies will require their employees to be present and working but, for whatever reason, will not allow them to clock in and count their hours for certain functions. Your employer cannot withhold your pay for mandatory time spent on the job, even if that time is not necessarily spent on your core job function. If you are expected to perform job duties “off the clock” the law requires that you be compensated for that time worked. Similarly, if your employer offers short breaks (5 – 20 minutes), federal law requires that the employee is compensated for that time. And, your employer is not allowed to require you to clock out for lunch but remain at your work station.
• Are your wages being withheld or ‘docked’ because of internal company policies?
Unless your employer has written authorization from you, employers may not withhold wages from employees due to cash shortages, breakage or loss of employer’s property, failing to wear required uniforms, or failing to have other tools necessary for employment. If, for whatever reason, your employer is docking your pay and you believe that it is unauthorized, you may have a claim.
• “Off the books” or “under the table” work is still covered by the Fair Labor Standards Act.
Unless you are an exempt employee, you must be paid for overtime worked and you must be paid the minimum wage. These laws apply even if you are working off the books, and are paid cash and not having taxes withheld. Texas adopts the Federal minimum wage which is currently $7.25 per hour.
Other Employment Issues:
Texas is an “at will” employment state, which means that your employer does not necessarily need a reason to terminate your employment. However, the employer cannot fire you for an unlawful reason.
• If your employer has discriminated against you because of certain protected classifications, you may have a valid claim.
Employers cannot practice age discrimination, gender discrimination, religious discrimination, disability discrimination, race discrimination, pregnancy discrimination, national origin discrimination, or discrimination against military veterans. In certain jurisdictions (such as the city of Dallas) employers cannot discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation. Often these claims arise in the context of wrongful termination, but if you are demoted, receive a reduction in compensation, or your employer takes other adverse actions against you due to your protected class status, you may have a valid claim.
• Are you being sexually harassed?
Texas and Federal law prohibits certain conduct that creates a hostile work environment. If you have been the victim of unwelcome verbal conduct (jokes, sexual advances), visual conduct (derogatory or inappropriate images), or physical conduct, you may have a claim for sexual harassment. If you have been threatened with adverse employment action unless you perform sexual requests, you may have a claim for sexual harassment. Due to the nature of sexual harassment, these types of claims are particularly difficult for victims. The experienced attorneys at Hoppenstein Law Firm can be your confidential counselors through this emotionally jarring process.
• Has your employer retaliated against you because you asserted your rights?
Even though Texas is an “at will” state, you may have a valid claim for retaliation if your employer takes adverse action against you because you are trying to assert your rights and/or comply with the law. Some of the reasons an employer may not discharge or retaliate against an employee are: attending jury duty, filing a claim for unpaid wages or unpaid overtime, filing a charge with the EEOC or TWC regarding discrimination, filing a workers’ compensation claim or reporting a workplace injury, taking or intending to take maternity leave or leave under the Family Medical Leave Act, and filing for bankruptcy, among others.
Please contact Hoppenstein Law Firm if you are experiencing problems with the way you are getting paid at work, employment discrimination, or sexual harassment. We would be happy to hear about your situation in a free-of-charge and confidential initial consultation.