Articles Posted in Employment Litigation

It is not unusual for a Dallas employment law matter that should, by rights, involve only a single issue to grow into a multi-faceted “shotgun” approach (colloquially speaking) lawsuit that adds unnecessary claims, complications, and expenses to what should be a fairly simple matter to resolve. A recent case that began as a whistleblower claim but grew to include several other allegations is illustrative. Fortunately for the employer, the appellate court eventually dismissed not only the add-on claims but the original one, as well.

Facts of the Case

The plaintiff in a recent case filed in Jefferson County, Texas, was a county jail employee who filed suit against the defendant county, asserting a claim as an alleged whistleblower. According to the plaintiff, she was demoted when she should have been promoted, in retaliation for refusal to cooperate with an internal affairs investigation of a co-worker who purportedly had a sexual encounter with an inmate at the jail.

When the plaintiff originally filed her lawsuit in September 2015, she only claimed that the defendant’s conduct was in violation of the Texas Whistleblower Act, but she later amended her pleadings to include an employment discrimination claim under the Texas Commission on Human Rights Act. She also alleged that the defendant had violated a collective bargaining agreement to which it was a party and that the plaintiff’s rights under the Texas Constitution had been violated.

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Not every Dallas employment litigation case arises from allegations of age or race discrimination or accusations of sexual harassment. Sometimes, litigation arises as a result of an alleged violation of another law, such as the Texas Whistleblower Act (codified at Tex. Gov’t Code §§ 554.001 et seq.).

Under the Texas Whistleblower Act, a state or local governmental entity may not take adverse personnel action against a public employee who, in good faith, reports wrongdoing by another employee or a governmental entity. If an employee can prove that such an adverse action has been taken against him or her in retaliation for “blowing the whistle,” he or she may be entitled to injunctive relief, money damages, and/or attorney fees.

Facts of the Case

In a case recently ruled upon by the Court of Appeals for the Eighth District of Texas, the plaintiff was a former police officer. He filed suit against the defendants, a city and its police department, seeking a remedy under the Texas Whistleblower Act. According to the plaintiff, he was terminated after some seven years of service because he reported that his supervising officer was attempting to have narcotics planted in his ex-wife’s vehicle (the supervisor and his wife were engaged in a custody dispute at the time). The plaintiff made the report sometime in July 2012 and was dishonorably discharged later that month on other grounds.

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When it comes to Dallas area employment lawsuits, such as wage and hour claims, it is important to consider not only the issues in a case currently facing an employer but also the potential implications of the employer’s position in the current case if other lawsuits or claims are filed later.

Otherwise, an employer’s argument in one case could be used against it in another case.

Facts of the Case

Being a defendant in a Dallas employment law case once is challenging enough, but what happens when a disgruntled employee’s claims are dismissed in federal court but he refiles a second suit in state court?

The answer depends on several factors, each of which must be examined in detail by the court in which the second action is filed.

Facts of the Case

A recent case began with the plaintiff former employee filing suit in federal court against the defendant former employer, asserting claims for both discrimination and a hostile work environment, as well as common law claims associated with the defendant’s alleged disclosure of certain information about him to two police departments. The federal court dismissed the plaintiff’s suit with prejudice. Continue reading

Under both federal and state law, Dallas employees who are not paid the wages to which they are entitled have the right to seek redress in a court of law. Typically, an aggrieved worker files a complaint in court, after which the defendant employer files an answer. Discovery is then conducted. If the parties cannot agree to an amicable settlement at that point, the case proceeds to trial.

Sometimes, however, a case does not follow the usual procedural course. This happened recently, when – for reasons that were not clear from the court’s order – the defendants in a wage and hour case failed to file an answer to the plaintiff’s complaint against them. The plaintiff then sought a default judgment, an option available to her under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 55.

Facts of the Case

In a case that was recently ruled upon by the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Texas, the plaintiff was a woman who alleged that she worked for some 17 weeks without pay. She filed suit seeking relief under both the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and the Texas Minimum Wage Act (TMWA). Her complaint further alleged that she had worked beyond 40 hours per week but had not received overtime pay or even the mandated minimum wage. Continue reading

Texas employment cases can involve many different types of claims – some under state law, some under federal law, and sometimes some under both. The resolution of such issues can be a time-consuming and costly endeavor, so it is important that a Dallas business approach a potential claim in a proactive and assertive manner.

Facts of the Case

The plaintiff in a recent employment discrimination case was a groundskeeper who was terminated from his job in the maintenance department of the defendant school district. He filed a complaint in federal district court, alleging that his termination was in violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967. He further claimed that the defendant had violated his First Amendment rights in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983 by firing him in retaliation for statements he made outside the workplace concerning an investigation of his supervisor.

We live in a world in which employees frequently cross county, state, and even national borders in order to perform their duties. Employers may be local, national, or international. In a Dallas employment case, complications can arise when the litigants are from different nations, or when the event giving rise to the litigation happened outside the United States.

In some cases, an employment agreement may control the resolution of some of these issues – or at least determine the forum in which they will be litigated.

Facts of the Case

Violations of Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) by Texas employers are common. However, these are rarely intentional violations. Employers do not often knowingly break the law. They break the law because they are unaware of what they are required to do. Their biggest mistake is simply not taking the time to examine their policies and procedures to make sure they are aligned with the current law.

Employers: Here are five of the most common ways that you may be violating the FLSA:

Are You Paying Your Employees Minimum Wage?

Let’s say that you have a zero-tolerance harassment code of conduct in place at your business. You have defined what the behavior is and educated the employees. It goes well beyond the obvious inappropriate behavior (touching, unwanted romantic overtures, sharing NSFW photos, graphic commentary on an individual’s appearance) to include just plain verbal harassment, quid pro quo sexual propositions for promotions, or behavior that creates a hostile work environment. You have made a point of educating the staff (both male and female members), but unfortunately these rules allegedly went out the window.

There are both state laws in Texas and federal laws that make the employer possibly liable for the behavior of a supervisor. These laws also apply to non-supervisors or even customers if the employers knew or should have known it was happening.

There are several steps the employer/owner should take immediately:

Thanks to a new law that went into effect on January 1st of 2015, employers are required to immediately report all serious workplace injuries to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). However, OSHA says that not all employers are doing as required. It estimates that 50 percent of the severe injuries suffered in the workplace went unreported by employers last year.

Failing To Report Serious Injuries To OSHA Means Increased Penalties

According to an article from Manufacturing.net, OSHA’s estimate is based on comparisons between states’ workers’ compensation reports and the number of incidents actually reported by employers.

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