Employment law is a broad term that governs the numerous legal issues that arise related to:
- Employers; and
- Safety conditions in the workplace.
For example, there are employment laws that may apply in cases that involve employment discrimination. Other employment laws may be used to provide guidance when drafting an employee handbook or company policies.
The main goal of employment laws are to protect all of the individuals who are part of the workforce, which may include:
- Establishing protections for an employee involved in a workplace dispute against:
- a colleague;
- an employer; or
- a company;
- Ensuring that businesses do not discriminate against prospective job candidates or current employees in any of the following processes:
- promoting; or
- Granting certain rights to individuals who are self-employed or are considered to be independent contractors;
- Ensuring that interns and volunteers do not encounter:
- Many other topics that may affect employment rights.
Additionally, employment laws may vary greatly by state or jurisdiction. Because of this, the protections that are provided in one state may not be provided in another state.
It is also important to note that there are issues which may be governed by both federal and state employment laws, for example, pregnancy leave.
What Are Some Different Types of Employment?
Under the federal laws, The Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”) and The Internal Revenue Code (“IRC”), there are several different ways to classify employees. These federal laws divide workers into two main categories of employment: an employee or an independent contractor.
The subcategories within these groups are broken down further into the various types of employment.
The groups within employment categories are further broken down into various types of employment. Examples of the different types of employment that a worker’s job may be classified as include:
- Full-time or part-time employment;
- Seasonal or temporary employment;
- Independent contractors;
- Consultants; or
- Temporary workers.
Knowing the proper category a worker falls into is important for the employer as well as the employee. This is because the type of employment a worker secures will determine the types of benefits they receive, for example:
- Pension and benefits;
- What rights they have as a worker; and
- Whether they qualify for certain perks.
A worker’s classification will also have an effect on what sort of tasks the employer will legally be obligated to do, such as withholding income taxes.
What Is the Difference Between an Employee and an Independent Contractor?
As previously noted, certain employment law issues are governed by both federal and state employment statutes. One such issue is the distinction between an employee and an independent contractor.
These laws also dictate the separate legal requirements that an employer will be required to follow for each of these categories of workers. Generally, the most important factor to examine when determining whether a worker is an employee or an independent contractor is the amount of control they have over their work.
For example, if a worker has control over what work they do and what methods they use to complete their work, they are more likely to be categorized as an independent contractor and not an employee. In contrast, if the employer has control over the tasks that the worker performs and the process used to perform that work, the worker is most likely an employee and not an independent contractor.
Employers will be required to comply with certain federal regulations for employees, for example, withholding income taxes from employee paychecks. An employer must also make sure that their employee is paid at a rate that meets at least minimum wage standards and complies with the wage and hour laws.
In contrast, employers are not required to provide employee benefits or withhold income taxes from the paycheck of an independent contractor. An independent contractor is responsible for overseeing those matters themselves.
In addition, while an employer can be held liable for the actions of an employee, they typically cannot be held liable for the actions of an independent contractor.
What are the Employment Laws in Texas?
In addition to the federal laws that apply to employment issues, Texas has its own employment laws.
Does Texas Recognize At-Will Employment?
At-will employment is an employment relationship in which an employee may be terminated at any time and for any reason, or even no reason at all, without just cause and without notice. There are, however, important exceptions to the at-will employment rule.
For example, an employee cannot ever be terminated, or fired, based on:
- National origin;
- Emergency evacuation;
- Retaliation; or
- Military service, in the event of an emergency.
This list is not all-inclusive. In addition to these general categories, there are also other specific grounds that employers are not permitted to use as the basis for termination.
What are the Texas Wage and Hour Laws?
The Texas wage and hour laws cover:
- The minimum of what each worker is entitled to;
- When workers must be paid; and
- Approximately when money is legally due.
Currently, the minimum wage in Texas is $7.25. This is the same amount as the current federal minimum wage as of 2022.
It is important to note that the minimum wage may vary depending on several factors, including whether or not an employee works for tips or is counting their lodging towards their wage. In these situations, minimum wage may be lower.
The majority of employees, however, will earn at least $7.25 per hour. Another exception to minimum wage rules is overtime.
The State of Texas does not have specific laws that govern overtime. Therefore, federal law governs this issue.
Overtime applies when an employee works 40 or more hours in one week. An employer is required to pay the employee at least 1.5 times their regular rate of pay for any hours worked over 40.
The State of Texas adheres to the Fair Labor Standards Act. The FLSA requires that wages be paid in full within 6 days of an employee being laid off or the next business day if the worker quits.
In addition, an employer cannot withhold payment of an employee’s full wages or deduct from their wages with the exception of:
- Court orders; and
- Other voluntary agreements.
In addition, an employer cannot make a deduction for:
- Damaged or lost equipment;
- Uniforms; or
- Other property which is in question, for example, a cash register shortage.
What are Legal Protections from Harassment and Discrimination?
Under federal laws, each state provides some protections from discrimination and sexual harassment. Protections provided in Texas include freedom from:
- Sexual Harassment: Sexual harassment is defined as any unwelcome sexual advance, request for sexual favors, or other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature at the workplace; and
- Discrimination: Protected classes include every class listed in the at-will employment section above.
Do I Need an Employment Lawyer?
If you believe your rights as an employee have been violated in the State of Texas, it is important to consult with a Texas employment attorney immediately.
Your employment attorney can advise you of your rights in Texas, review your case to determine if your employer violated the laws, and advise you whether you may be able to recover damages.