Labor Laws in Texas: Everything You Need to Know
Labor laws in Texas set standards for minimum wage, fair treatment of employees, and the proper workplace environment for both staff and management. 8 min read
Labor Laws in Texas
Labor laws in Texas set standards for minimum wage, fair treatment of employees, and the proper workplace environment for both staff and management. They work in conjunction with federal law and cover such things as overtime pay, meals and breaks, severance pay, pay periods, child labor, harassment, discrimination, and more.
Minimum Wage in Texas
The minimum wage in Texas remains at the federal level of $7.25 an hour. In addition, the state has established the Texas Minimum Wage Act. This act provides guidelines related to minimum wage for employees who are non-exempt. These employees must be given a written statement of earnings that outlines their pay and allows for remedies under civil law if the Texas Minimum Wage Act is violated.
This act also prohibits employees from paying any wage that falls below federal levels for minimum wage. Workers in Texas also have the right to engage in bargaining for higher wages. Tipped employees may be paid less than minimum wage, so long as the tips are sufficient to bring their hourly equivalent up to at least $7.25 per hour. Texas law sets the minimum tipped wage to $2.13 per hour.
In Texas, there are no labor laws related to the payment of overtime. Federal laws, however, do apply, and set overtime at 1.5 times the regular pay. The FLSA, or Fair Labor Standards Act, requires all employers to pay overtime for any hours beyond 40 worked in a given week. Employees who fall within certain exceptions to overtime laws (exempt employees) are not eligible to earn this overtime.
Meals and Breaks
Again, Texas does not have any labor laws regarding meals and breaks for employees, and contrary to popular belief, federal rules also do not require employers to provide breaks. If they do, any breaks must be paid if they are 20 minutes or less, but lunch breaks of 30 minutes or more are not required to be paid if employees are permitted to do whatever they like during those breaks.
There are no laws in Texas or under the federal government that require employers to provide severance pay for employees who leave or are dismissed. Employers who do choose to provide severance pay, however, are bound by the terms of any established employment contract or company policy.
Fair Labor Rights
There are standards in place both at the state and federal level to protect workers' rights in terms of overtime, record keeping, and fair pay. In addition, workers under a certain age are protected from doing potentially dangerous work or work that is deemed to be inappropriate to workers of their age.
In Texas, employers are required to keep detailed records of hours worked by employees. Employees can also request a review of hours worked, and of received compensation from those hours.
Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA)
The FLSA, or Fair Labor Standards Act, is a set of federal laws that provide hour and wage standards that must be followed by all employers. These include regulations regarding overtime, minimum wage and other protections. Texas state laws are also subject to FLSA regulations at the federal level. For more information about the FLSA, contact the U.S. Department of Labor's Wage and Hour Division.
Frequency of Payment of Wages
Exempt employees under the FLSA overtime provisions must be paid on a monthly basis at least, while non-exempt employees must receive paychecks at least twice a month. Employers who choose to pay bi-monthly are required to maintain an equal number of days between pay, as much as possible.
Designation of Paydays
Employers must either designate paydays that comply with state law, or payday must fall under the first and the 15th of every month. Employees who do not get paid on payday for any reason must receive their pay as soon as possible on a payday designated by the employee.
The Texas Workforce Commission requires every business that is not a public employer to comply by these standards, which fall under the Texas Payday Law. Employers must also pay employees on time and in full.
Wages can only be withheld if the employer is specifically authorized to do so under federal or state law. This includes circumstances where courts require withholding, or where the employee gives written authorization for lawful reasons. Employers must have standardized authorization forms that are used to implement these deductions.
Under the Texas Minimum Wage Act, employers are required to provide earning statements listing the name, pay rate, deductions, net pay, and hours worked as applicable under state law.
When a final paycheck is issued, employers need to comply with specific requirements under federal and state law. These include the issuance of full pay at the next regularly scheduled payday if an employee leaves voluntarily, or issuance of payment within six days if an employee is terminated.
Payment of Accrued Vacation Time or Paid Time Off Upon Separation
Employees are only entitled to unused paid time off (PTO) that has accrued if there is a written policy or employment agreement in place. Employers in Texas need to carefully review their policies and procedures to be certain that they are very clear before they pay out any accrued PTO, including vacation or sick time, when an employee leaves.
Any policies related to payment of accrued time off should be issued in writing, and employers should think carefully about limiting the amount of days or hours of PTO that can be accrued for separation payment, as well as the number that can be rolled over from one year to the next. Such vacation forfeiture policies should be issued in writing.
Laws on Child Labor
There are both federal and state laws that protect minors against unfair labor practices. In Texas, child labor laws exist to restrict the jobs that minors can perform and the hours that workers under the age of 16 are permitted to work. If a minor is hired for a job, they may be required to produce proof of age in terms of a birth or other age certificate.
Discrimination and Harassment Laws in Texas
The Federal Civil Rights Act of 1964, Title VII, covers discrimination based on color, religion, sex, race, or national origin. No job decision may be made based on any of these factors. There are additional federal laws that prohibit age discrimination or discrimination based on disability or genetic information. All employers who have at least 15 staff members are subject to the laws under the Civil Rights Act, and those with over 20 employees are subject to age-discrimination laws.
In addition, employers are not permitted to discriminate during the working relationship. This means everything from listing the job to conducting interviews, to making hiring decisions, issuance of promotions, providing compensation and benefits, laying off, terminating, or otherwise disciplining employees. For more information about federal discrimination laws, you should contact the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and consult their legal resources.
In Texas, there are also state-specific laws that prohibit any discrimination in regards to race, religion, sex, pregnancy, national origin, genetic information, age, employment relationship, or disability as outlined above. These laws apply to all Texas employers who have at least 15 people working for them. The Texas Workforce Commission has additional detailed information about these laws.
Harassment is defined as any statements or unwelcome actions that are based on protected traits such as age, sex, or race, which create an offensive or hostile environment at work, or which are perceived as a requirement to maintain or get a job. The most common and well-known form of harassment is sexual harassment, but harassment can also be based on ethnicity, disability, age, or any other protected factor.
Workers who complain of discrimination or harassment in the workplace are legally protected against retaliation. Employers may not take any negative job actions against employees, regardless of whether the complaint is made inside the company, to a government agency, or in the form of a lawsuit. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, or EEOC, investigates all complaints of harassment or discrimination. The organization also mediates any disputes between employers and employees.
Military personnel are a protected class in Texas. Employers may not take any negative actions against workers because of membership in military forces, including the National Guard or state guard, and who are currently on duty. They also may not discriminate against employees who receive an order of evacuation and comply. This includes all employees who complied with evacuation orders related to Hurricane Ike.
Medical services personnel are excluded from this law, but only if the employer can provide shelter. Those individuals who are responsible for maintaining and restoring vital services, as well as those responsible for protecting public safety, are also excluded.
Texas Laws on Workplace Safety and Injuries
Every state, including Texas, is covered by the federal government's Occupational Safety and Health Act, which is overseen by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). This law requires all employers to provide a workplace that is reasonably safe from known hazards and includes any and all necessary safety equipment, training, and healthy working conditions.
Any employee who feels the employer is in violation of these rules may request an OSHA inspection. Employers are prohibited from retaliating against employees who make such complaints.
Any employee who suffers an injury in the course of employment is generally eligible to receive workers' compensation, a form of insurance that most employers in Texas are required to carry. It permits employees to recover a percentage of their normal earnings as well as compensation for medical treatment. Workers' compensation also provides funding for vocational training and disability benefits. It can also pay for burial and death benefits for employees who die in the course of their work.
Employees who suffer such injuries must file a claim with the Texas Department of Insurance. Any employees who feel that their rights are not being upheld have the right to file a lawsuit.
Overview on Laws on Attendance and Leave
In Texas, employers are not required to provide any paid leave, including sick time, holidays, vacation time, or any other paid time off. Neither state nor federal law mandates these offerings. However, employers may be required to offer unpaid leave for things like family and medical issues, military leave, voting, or jury duty.
Family and Medical Leave
The FMLA, or Family and Medical Leave Act, is a federal law requiring employers to permit up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave to employees who require time to care for a newborn child, bonding time with an adopted or foster child, care of a close family member with a serious illness or injury, or other major health conditions affecting the ability to work.
Employers must continue to provide health benefits during FMLA leave. Employees have the right to get their jobs back at the end of the leave. Texas does not have its own state laws regarding family and medical leave. Employees who wish to receive FMLA leave must have worked at least 1,250 hours over the prior year, and there must be 50 employees employed by the same employer within a 75-mile area.
Military leave, as defined by USERRA and Texas law, covers those who need to care for injured military family members hurt on duty. Military training also allows for unpaid leave. Employees have the right to return to their job when their leave ends.
Information on Leaving a Job
Texas is an at-will employment state, meaning employees can leave a job or be dismissed for any reason that is not illegal at any time.
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