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Back to the Basics: What is National Origin Discrimination?

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 makes it illegal to discriminate, among other protected categories, based on national origin. National origin discrimination means treating people, namely job applicants or employees, adversely because of their country of origin, because of ethnicity or accent, or because they appear to be part of a certain ethnic group, whether or not this is actually the case. National origin discrimination also includes harassment of a person because of the national origin of their spouse or other person with whom they associate.  What Does Accent Have to do With National Origin Discrimination?  Those Read more
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More Females in the C-Suite, but Still No Gender Parity

Gender diversity has been at the forefront of the workplace equality conversation for a number of years. Recently, McKinsey & Company released its detailed 2019 Women in the Workplace Report.   The Women in the Workplace Report found that while the percentage of women in senior leadership roles has grown over the last five years, there remains a roadblock to male/female business parity in the lower ranks.  It is still far less common for a woman to receive that important first promotion.   The report states that for every 100 men promoted/hired to a first managerial job, only 72 women are given Read more
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Are Employment Handbooks Legally Binding?

Does your employment handbook contain specific language indicating that it should not be considered a contract? If it does not, then your company handbook potentially could be considered a legally binding document between employer and employee.  While rare, an employee handbook can inadvertently create a contract in certain instances. Legally, the key factor in determining whether a company handbook constitutes a contract is if the employer has issued a guarantee to the employee or if the employee promises anything to the employer.  Employment handbooks and their enforceability are important when it comes to dealing with employee discipline or termination. Certain Read more
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Understanding “Notice and Cure” Provisions in Employment Contracts

Although Texas is an “employment at-will” state, some companies utilize employment contracts with increasing frequency.  Many of those employers include a “notice and cure” provision in their employment contracts. When a “notice and cure” term is included in an employment contract, the agreement includes a length of time during which a problem, or potential terminable event, can be corrected before termination.  When the consequences of inadequate individual performance are spelled out, companies may find their entire organization operates more effectively. Identifying specific shortfalls in performance and allowing for their correction prior to termination can prove to be beneficial for everyone. Read more
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What is Associational Discrimination in Texas?

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits employment discrimination on the bases of race, color, national origin, sex, and religion.  The act prohibits discrimination with respect to a number of actions such as hiring, firing, failing to promote, transferring, or declining to hire a prospective employee.   Courts have universally held that Title VII also prohibits associational discrimination, which is the discrimination against individuals because of an association or relationship with members of a protected class. This protection is extended even if the individuals suffering the discrimination are not members of a protected class themselves. An example Read more
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Can Employers Dictate Employee Physical Appearance on the Clock?

An employee’s physical appearance in the workplace can be important to an employer’s brand.  However placing unyielding requirements on employees’ physical appearance at work could potentially violate federal discrimination laws.  Can Employers Impose a Dress Code?  Generally speaking, employers have the legal right to establish dress and grooming codes for employees. Some companies require formal business attire, some companies allow employees to dress down on “casual Fridays,” and others adopt a more relaxed dress code throughout the week. The Texas Workforce Commission specifically says, “employers can always require employees to appear at work with a neat and clean appearance, including Read more
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Can Telecommuters Receive Workers’ Compensation Benefits?

  Generally, yes, a person who is working from home can receive worker’s compensation benefits so long as he or she sustained an injury during the course of employment. The employee would bear the burden of proving that the injury did indeed stem from a work-related activity.  Some common terms used when discussing a worker’s compensation claim include “arising out of” which refers to what the employee was doing at the time of the injury, and “in the course of” which refers to when the injury happened. A successful workers’ compensation claim will be able to prove that the employee Read more
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What Accommodations Does the ADA Require for Animals in the Workplace?

Service animals can help people who have disabilities carry out their daily activities. Specifically, dogs can be trained to perform many tasks to support people such as providing balance for a person who has difficulty walking, picking up items for a person who is unable to do so, or preventing someone with a mental impairment from wandering away and becoming lost. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was passed in 1990 and since then has been an effective tool in prohibiting discrimination against individuals with disabilities in all areas of daily life.  The ADA protects people while they are at Read more
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Can Employers Restrict Employees Online Work-Related Speech?

Many people mistakenly believe that the First Amendment to the United States Constitution guarantees their right to free speech under any and all circumstances.  The First Amendment actually states: “Congress shall make no law . . . abridging the freedom of speech . . .” Originally, this law was created to allow for political discourse and dissent.  People could not be arrested for disagreeing with elected leaders or the government, and this remains the case today. So, while free speech is protected from government action, an employee’s rights are more limited with regard to their employer. In most circumstances, it Read more
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Protecting Your Company from Retaliation Claims After a Firing

Inevitably, as your business grows and shifts, employee turnover becomes a fact of life and it will become necessary to hire and fire employees. As you move forward in the life of your business, it is important to note that not only must businesses allow and provide mechanisms for employees to report claims of discrimination and harassment, but also prove that any firing following a complaint of discrimination or harassment was not retaliation for that employee’s complaint. Some examples of workplace retaliation include demotions, reassignments, reduced pay, or even termination. To ensure that you are operating in a just and Read more