The Texas Workforce Commission is a state-run agency that handles legal concerns such as employment and housing disputes. It is also known as the TWC and has the legal authority to execute functions such as:
- Investigating workplace disputes
- Acting as a neutral third-party fact-finder
- Resolving employment-related issues
As a result, if an employee has a work-related problem, they can submit a claim with the TWC, which will intervene to provide legal assistance to the worker or workers. Discrimination and harassment claims are the most common sorts of lawsuits filed with the TWC.
A Texas Workforce Commission attorney assists the organization in doing its vital public service function.
- Examine recorded testimony and documentary evidence gathered at administrative hearings relating to TWC programs such as Unemployment Insurance (UI) and Wage Claims;
- Summarize pertinent facts and makes timely recommendations for case resolution;
- Ensure that recommendations are in accordance with existing legislation, such as the Texas Unemployment Compensation Act (TUCA), Texas Payday law, and Commission precedent;
- Develops a conclusion for each case in accordance with existing law and Commission precedent;
- Prepare communication in such circumstances;
- Assist in the conduct of higher-level re-hearings ordered by the Commission (mainly telephone hearings);
- Participate in Rapid Process Improvement (RPI) programs
What Types of Legal Issues Does the TWC Process?
The great majority of TWC lawsuits involve legal issues like employment, resignations, layoffs, and discharges.
Unemployment benefits are available under Texas labor laws to those who are out of work through no fault of their own.
The person initiating the work separation bears the burden of showing “fault.” A claimant who resigned from their last job must demonstrate that they had sufficient reason to do so. TWC has historically interpreted “good cause” as any reason related to work that would cause an employee who is otherwise interested in continuing employment to leave.
Of course, this is a “reasonable employee” criterion. Cases involving drastic pay or hour cuts, other significant and adverse changes in the work, prolonged and unaddressed harassment of the worker by the employer or its agents, or egregious acts of misconduct by the employer toward the worker have all been found to be good reasons to quit.
In most circumstances, the claimant must additionally demonstrate that he provided the employer sufficient notice that he was considering resigning.
In any discharge action, the employer carries the burden of showing two things.
First, the employer must demonstrate that the claimant was fired for a specific act or acts of misconduct related to the job that occurred relatively close to the time of discharge.
Second, the evidence must show that the claimant was aware, or should have been aware, that they could lose their job for the reason stated by the employer.
In drug-testing cases, the employer should always be prepared to adequately document the case. At the very least, the documentation should include a copy of the employer’s drug and testing policy, as well as proof of the claimant’s understanding of the policy and agreement to testing.
The employer must also provide a comprehensive chain of custody paperwork that shows who handled the claimant’s urine, hair, or blood sample at all relevant periods.
Finally, precise test result documentation that demonstrates the sorts of initial and confirmation testing methods used and the quantitative results obtained is required, preferably with a summary of what the test results mean. Any testing provider used by the employer should provide this type of evidence. Gas chromatography/mass spectrometry (GC/MS) should be used for the confirmation test.
Companies that fire employees based on a single initial drug test will nearly always lose the lawsuit if the person denies drug use. Companies that fail to adequately document their policies, test results, and sample chain of custody also run a greater chance of losing.
Of course, firsthand testimony from any witness who can testify that the claimant was acting impaired prior to or during testing will increase the employer’s chances of success.
TWC has adopted several precedent cases in the area of drug testing, all of which affirm that the employer must prove that the sampling, sample handling, and testing procedures were reliable enough to allow a reasonable conclusion that the claimant had prohibited substances in their system at the time of testing and was aware of the possibility of being discharged for such an offense.
Once that proof is presented, the Commission has demonstrated that it will exclude such a claimant, even if the claimant swears to the contrary. In general, the employer has the burden of proof for all aspects of the policy, consent, testing, and chain of custody procedures.
Inadequate Work Performance or Attitude
A discharge for poor work performance is one of the most difficult cases for an employer to win.
The reason for this is that even if the employer presents the basic evidence for a discharge case, such as first hand testimony about a specific final incident of misconduct and evidence that the claimant was aware their job was in jeopardy, the employer can still lose if the situation appears to be one of “inability” on the part of the claimant.
Many companies are startled to hear that failure to meet an employer’s performance goals is not considered work-related misconduct under the law. Disqualification is permitted only if the situation that resulted in the discharge was within the claimant’s control. Failure to do even better was beyond the claimant’s control as long as they were trying their best.
Most employers lose these lawsuits by utilizing phrases like “inability,” “incompetence,” “never being able to do the work correctly,” “constantly making mistakes,” and so on. Terms like these raise red flags for claim examiners and appeal hearing officers, who may get the wrong impression from the start and classify all evidence against the claimant as “inability.”
True incapacity cases are uncommon. To avoid the designation of “inability,” the employer must demonstrate that the claimant was capable of doing an adequate job in the past.
Favorable performance assessments, raises, promotions, and firsthand observations from superiors may all be evidence of ability to accomplish outstanding work. The employer must then demonstrate that the claimant was failing to perform at levels that they were capable of achieving.
The best evidence will be variables within the claimant’s control that tend to explain why the work was so inadequate. This might include things like:
- Inability to double-check work;
- Failure to adhere to directions;
- Absenteeism or tardiness that is excessive;
- Taking lengthy lunch or coffee breaks or otherwise failing to devote sufficient time to the job
- Excessive personal phone calls or coworker visits
- Excessive time spent surfing the Internet, writing and reading non-work-related emails, or wasting time in chat rooms or instant messaging;
- An inexplicable reduction in job quality where the claimant had previously demonstrated excellent performance;
- A negative attitude toward customers; or
- Refusal to accept more training
What Are the Requirements for Filing with the Texas Workforce Commission?
When filing with the TWC, you must normally meet the following criteria:
- Your workplace must have a physical address inside the state of Texas.
- Your prospective employer must have at least 15 employees.
- You must specify the category on which the discrimination allegation is based (such as age discrimination, race-based, religion-based discrimination, etc.)
- You must be able to establish the exact harm you incurred, such as a rejection of advancement, lost pay, wrongful termination, and so on.
In addition, the date of your filing must be within 180 days of the alleged discrimination. Filing can be done by correspondence with TWC or in person with TWC.
How Does the TWC Work with Federal Agencies?
The TWC is analogous to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), a federal body. The Texas agency collaborates with the EEOC in many situations, particularly when federal laws or infractions are plainly involved. When a claim is filed with the TWC, the agency will also notify the EEOC.
On the other hand, a person cannot usually file with both the EEOC and the TWC; they must usually start with the state filing. Furthermore, before filing a private lawsuit, the employee must file with the TWC.
How Long Does It Take for the Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) To Review a Claim?
It takes roughly four weeks from the date you apply for benefits to know if you are eligible.
Do I Need a Lawyer for Help Filing with the Texas Workforce Commission?
When filing with the TWC, you will almost certainly require the counsel of a Texas employment lawyer. Your attorney can walk you through the procedure and inform you of your legal rights in Texas. In addition, your attorney can assist you if you require representation during any court or agency proceedings.