Texas Labor Laws

Texas labor laws can be complex. It is incredibly important to be aware of the various laws and regulations regarding labor and wages, whether you are an employee or an employer. Knowing the rights of both the worker and the company employing the worker before accepting a position can avoid future headaches and legal entanglements. Whether you are looking for a job in the great state of Texas, or seeking to expand your business to hire more employees, the following information may be very useful.

Wage And Hour Laws

Currently, Texas abides by the absolute minimum wage set forth by the Federal Fair Labor Standards Act (29 USC 201 et al), which is a wage of $7.25 per hour. If an employee is one who earns tips, then the employer may pay them as little as $2.13 an hour, as long as, with tips included, the wage is equal to or greater than the minimum wage.

Texas, although devoid of its own laws regarding overtime, still adheres to the FLSA mandate that requires employers to pay time-and-a-half for any hours worked over the standard 40 hour week, although there are some exceptions.

The FLSA separates employees into two categories in regards to minimum wage and overtime pay: exempt and non-exempt. Although, it is also important to keep in mind that there may be local statutes and further regulations regarding age and wages in Texas, depending on the locality, and will apply in addition to any FLSA laws. Fair labor standards are important to establish a baseline for both corporate accountability to the workers, and to provide for a more sustainable economy, with regulations in place to keep employers from taking advantage of workers or exploiting them in regards to pay and book-keeping.

Especially important is the establishment of laws and mandates regarding workers under the age of 18, who historically were an exploited class of laborer. Although many states have more stringent rules and even a higher minimum wage, Texas adheres mainly to the Federal mandates set forth in the FLSA.

Texas requires the employer to maintain accurate records of hours worked for each of their employees, and the employees have the right to inquire into this record-keeping process to be shown their hours worked, compensation, etc. Workers are entitled to accurate management and dispersal of funds they earned as a result of their labor, and their employers must follow the regulations set forth by federal, state and local law to compensate employees accurately and fairly, or answer to the Department of Labor.

Although seemingly redundant, the Texas Minimum Wage Act made it law for employers to follow the federal FLSA and illegal to pay less than the federally mandated minimum wage, but also gave workers in the Lone Star State the right to bargain for wages higher than the federal minimum.

Oddly enough, Texas does not have any legislation or laws in regards to meal periods or breaks, and default once again to the federal law set forth by the FLSA. Thus, meal periods less than 20 minutes must be paid periods, though periods 30 minutes or longer may not be paid, as long as the employee can do what he or she wants during this period, within reason.

The state of Texas is one of the few states in the union who do not regulate their lunch and paid periods.

Vacation/Sick/Time Off

Like many states, Texas does not require employers to provide paid or unpaid vacation time to their employees, however if they do, they must do so within compliance of regulations set in the employment contract or published policy, in which all employees have a right to have access to at any given time [X Labor Code 61.001(7)(B); TX Admin. Code 821.25(a)].

Texas has given employers the right to deny accrued paid vacation as compensation upon separation or termination of employment, but only if previously established in the published policy or employment contract.

If said contract or policy dictates that compensation WILL be paid upon separation or termination for accrued paid sick or vacation time, the employer must comply, as long as the employee has complied with the requirements for such an arrangement as set forth in the initial employment contract or published policy. For example, some companies may require a specific time-frame of notice of resignation (two week notice, etc) or require the employee to have been working a specific numbers of months a year, and so on.

If the established employment contract or published policy does not explicitly state that this compensation occurs, the employer is not legally obligated to pay out. Texas allows employers to instate their own policies regarding vacation and sick time, including creating caps on the amount of aggregate hours one can accrue, and establishing a finite expiration date to the days, commonly called a “use it or lose it” policy.

It’s a very “hands off” state in many ways, as far as labor laws are concerned. The state prefers to allow corporate entities the luxury of competing freely, and letting the free market dictate the various events surrounding the labor laws in the state.

Similarly, there is no impetus requiring employers in Texas for providing sick time, injured leave, or bereavement leave to employees. However, like with vacation time, if the employer chooses to implement such a policy, they must abide by and adhere to their published policy or employment contract. The Family and Medical Leave Act, a federal law regarding sick pay, is in play and fully enforced, Texas just has no additional rules or regulations on a state level.

Holidays & Jury Duty

No rules exist on the Texas state level for governing holidays in regards to employees, compensation differentials, or leave, and private employers may inform employees they are required to work holidays. Similarly, there is no rule, law, or regulation requiring employers in Texas to pay any extra wages, such as overtime, for working on holidays, unless the hours worked push them over 40, in which case the overtime laws apply. Of course, as with the above, if the employer has an employment contract or published policy that delivers such promises, the employer must comply with their own policies.

Certain holidays, considered national, are recognized in all states. Some of these include Christmas, Memorial DAy, Thanksgiving, and New Year’s Day. On these days, federal institutions are closed and employees enjoy wage increases and holiday pay. Texas also has some local holidays that celebrate the unique Lone Star State culture, including LBJ Day and the surely soon-to-be-no-more Confederate Heroes Day.

In Texas, an employer may not terminate an employee if the employee misses time due to serving as a juror, although the employer is not required to provide pay or wages for the employee in their absence, either. However, in Texas, the employer is required to provide paid leave to their employees to vote in local and national elections if there is not at least two hours of free time in which the employee is not working and the voting polls are open. Failure to comply is a misdemeanor.

If an employee is serving in active or reserve duty as a member of the military, according to the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act and Texas state laws, employers must provide leave for employees with military duties and training, and must allow the employee to return without discrimination when they are no longer on duty. It also requires employers to allow up to 26 weeks of leave in a single year to care for distressed active duty family members. .

Safety Laws

Many years have passed since the industrial revolution first bred dangerous factories where safety was not a concern to the powers-that-be. Regulations and governmental entities have deigned to put the safety of the worker at the fore of its infrastructure, and so the federal Occupational Safety and Health Act, or OSHA, insures US businesses are providing safe environments in which to work.

Texas, like every other state, is obligated to comply. Employers must provide proper training, equipment, and facilities if they expect their employees to perform their assigned duties. It is the right of an employee to request an OSHA official inspection if they feel their employer is lacking in providing necessary safe environs. Employers may not respond with any disciplinary action or other retaliation for any OSHA involvement, and may face discriminatory charges.

Any injury sustained while working, and found to be suffered while performing duties within proper compliance of OSHA and employer mandated safety parameters, potentially qualifies the employee for Workman’s Compensation. Most employers are required to secure Workman’s Compensation insurance in the event of employee injury. WC provides employees with a percentage of their earnings and income while recovering from the injury.

Discrimination

No employer in the United States may discriminate against an employee for any reason, be it race, religion, age, origin, etc, according to Title VII of the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964 and subsequent federal laws.

Discrimination covers a vast array of the working life, from interviews, hiring, benefits, leave, assigned duties, seasonal layoffs, etc. Choosing to negatively impact someone based on any of the above parameters is a serious offense.

These laws also ban harassment or assault of an individual based on any of the above. Creating a hostile atmosphere based on such harassment and discrimination is illegal, up to and including harassment of a sexual nature.

If an employee feels as though any of his or her rights has been violated and seeks to issue a complaint whether within the company or to a governing body or advocacy group, it is illegal for the company to take any retaliatory action or otherwise negatively affect the whistleblower, under federal law.

OSHA protects employees who issue complaints based on unsafe working conditions or improper training. It is well within the rights of an employee to have OSHA investigate the safety of a company, without fear of retaliation from the employer. Texas generally defines “retaliatory action” as terminating, suspending, docking the pay, or otherwise negatively affecting the day to day working life of an employee due to the employee expressing concern regarding a specific issue within or without the company.

At-Will

Texas remains one of many states where employment is considered “at-will”. At-Will employers may terminate or layoff an employee for any reason, as long as that reason is not illegal and does not violate any of the regulations, laws, or statutes discussed above. For example, just because an employee is considered at-will in the state of Texas does not mean the company can take retaliatory measures and terminate the employee for raising OSHA concerns.

Many employees laid off or terminated may be eligible for unemployment insurance, as long as certain guidelines and requirements are met. Unemployment is heavily regulated and one can only collect unemployment insurance for 26 weeks, and must show aptitude at looking for employment elsewhere in the meantime.

Once an employee returns to work, their benefits would likely cease entirely under Texas state law.

Texas tends to ride the rear of the pack as far as regulations and laws regarding worker’s rights and wages. Eeking out the bare minimum of Federally mandated guidelines, it is nonetheless important to know what is established before you enter an employment contract with any institution.

Many businesses, however, prefer to operate there because they know there is little no reason to worry about the state becoming involved in the affairs of the companies, and the tax laws statewide are often very friendly for corporations and business entities.

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