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Texas Employment Law Update

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Category Archives: Case Summaries

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Texas Supreme Court Reverses Million Dollar Verdict in Retaliation Case

Posted in Case Summaries, Retaliation
Last week the Texas Supreme Court reversed a $1 million jury verdict in a retaliation case arising under state law. In San Antonio Water Systems v. Nichols, the court held that the former employee’s confrontation of a male executive about his repeated lunch invitations to other female coworkers occurring three years before the plaintiff’s termination… Continue Reading

Fifth Circuit Resolves Intra-Circuit Split on Important ADA Issue

Posted in Case Summaries, Disability, Discrimination
Last month the Fifth Circuit resolved an intra-Circuit split on the appropriate prima face case that should be used in a discrimination case under the Americans with Disabilities Act.  In EEOC v. LHC Group, Inc., the EEOC brought suit on behalf of a home health field nurse who was terminated after she was rendered unable… Continue Reading

Texas Supreme Court Provides Defendants with Halloween Discovery Treat; Not Trick

Posted in Case Summaries, Discrimination
Last Friday, Halloween, the Texas Supreme Court delivered defendants a “treat” in the form of a mandamus opinion articulating the standard for when discovery requests seeking information related to claims other than the plaintiff’s claims crosses the line from seeking relevant information into an impermissible fishing expedition. In In re National Lloyds Insurance Company, the… Continue Reading

I Quit! Constructive Discharge Serves as Substitute for Adverse Employment Action

Posted in Age, Case Summaries, Discrimination
An essential element of most employment discrimination claims is that the employee suffered an adverse employment action. An employee who resigns often has difficulty making out a prima facie case of discrimination. An exception to this general rule is where the employee suffers a constructive discharge. Stated another way, where the employee can prove that the employer,… Continue Reading

Employee Wins Reversal of Religious Discrimination Defeat at the Fifth Circuit

Posted in Case Summaries, Reasonable Accommodation, Religion
Last week I wrote about a religious discrimination case where an employer snatched victory from the jaws of defeat at the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. This week, we have a Fifth Circuit opinion where the court took away an employer’s victory in another religious discrimination case and sent the case back to the trial court… Continue Reading

Texas Supreme Court Holds that Forfeiture Provision In Incentive Plan Not A Noncompete

Posted in Case Summaries, Noncompetes and Restrictive Covenants
I wrote about the case of Drennen v. Exxon Mobile over a year ago.  Drennen was the case of the Exxon executive who forfeited millions of dollars in incentive compensation when he left Exxon to work for a competitor.  You can read the background of the case here.  Today, the Texas Supreme Court held that a forfeiture clause contained… Continue Reading

Distinction Between Supervisor/Nonsupervisor Makes $70,000 Difference in Religious Discrimination Case

Posted in Case Summaries, Discrimination, Religion
The status of an employee as a supervisor or nonsupervisor can have a significant impact on the outcome of a discrimination, harassment or retaliation case. For example, if an employee who commits a hostile work environment is a supervisor, the employer could be deprived of valuable legal defenses like the Faragher/Ellerth affirmative defense. A recent case from… Continue Reading

Delivery of FMLA Notices by First Class Mail Does Not Rule Out Disputes Over Receipt of Notice

Posted in Case Summaries, Leave of Absence
The DOL regulations require FMLA-covered employers to provide various notices to employees.  The regulations do not dictate how all of the notices must be delivered.  Most employers utilize hand-delivery or regular U.S. mail for most pre-leave notices (eligibility and pre-leave designations) and use U.S. mail almost exclusively for post-leave notices (i.e., when the employee is already out on leave).… Continue Reading

Fifth Circuit Holds, in Issue of First Impression, that But-For Causation Applies to Claims Arising Under the Jury System Improvement Act

Posted in Case Summaries, Discrimination, Retaliation
Both federal and Texas law prohibit discrimination against employees for participating in various types of jury service. Imagine an employer defending itself from the accusation that it terminated an employee because of her jury service and then looking across the courtroom to see the individuals who will most likely decide the merits of its case –a… Continue Reading

Fifth Circuit Holds Confidential Information Policy Protecting Company Financial and Personnel Information Violates the NLRA

Posted in Case Summaries, Labor-Management Relations
In an opinion likely effecting many Texas employers, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals held that an employer’s confidentiality policy that prohibited employees from disclosing all company financial and personnel information without a carve-out for employee wage information violated the National Labor Relations Act. Flex Frac, a non-union employer, required all of its employees to sign the following confidentiality… Continue Reading

Fifth Circuit Rejects Argument that Class Action Waivers in Arbitration Agreements Violate the NLRA

Posted in Arbitration, Case Summaries, Wage & Hour
I first wrote about the NLRB’s decision that pre-dispute arbitration agreements waiving the right to assert claims as part of a class action violated federal labor law in January 2012 (post).  Back then, I thought it was prudent for employers to wait for the result of the the inevitable appeal that would follow before revising or… Continue Reading

Fifth Circuit Confirms Use of Fluctuating Workweek Method of Overtime Calculation in Misclassification Case

Posted in Case Summaries, Wage & Hour
In settlement negotiations and trial of FLSA overtime misclassification cases, there is usually a disagreement between the parties as to how the unpaid overtime should be calculated. Attorneys representing employees typically want overtime calculated using a 1.5 times the regular rate of pay for each overtime hour that was worked. Attorneys representing companies typically want to utilize… Continue Reading

Court Holds that Reasonableness of Physician Buy-Out Clauses in Noncompetition Agreements Can be Challenged Even When Parties Previously Agreed to Amount

Posted in Case Summaries, Noncompetes and Restrictive Covenants
I have written several posts outlining the unique requirements that employers must include to create a valid noncompeteition agreement with a physician. (posts here and here). A recent case from the Beaumont Court of Appeals holds that even when a physician noncompetition agreement contains a reasonable buy-out clause, the employer may still have to arbitrate the reasonableness… Continue Reading

Fifth Circuit Holds that Employee’s Internal Complaints of Securities Violations Do Not Qualify for Dodd-Frank Whistleblower Protection

Posted in Case Summaries, Retaliation
In a recent opinion of the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, the federal appellate court held that a former employee terminated after making internal complaints to his employer about possible securities violations, but who never made complaints to the S.E.C., was not a whistleblower under the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010… Continue Reading

U.S. Supreme Court Adopts “But For” Causation Standard for Title VII Retaliation Cases

Posted in Case Summaries, Retaliation
In a case appealed from the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, the U.S. Supreme Court held that a plaintiff in a Title VII retaliation case may prevail only when he shows that he would not have suffered an adverse employment action “but for” his engaging in protected activity. In the first retaliation case in several years… Continue Reading

U.S. Supreme Court Adopts Objective Test for Determining Title VII Supervisor Status

Posted in Case Summaries, Harassment
The U.S. Supreme Court adopted an objective test for determining an employee’s Title VII “supervisory status” in Vance v. Ball State University. The question in Vance was what level of authority must an individual have to qualify as a “supervisor” for purposes of Title VII vicarious liability. This is an important issue because the employee’s status often… Continue Reading

Fifth Circuit Holds that Volunteer Firefighter is not an “Employee” for Purposes of Title VII

Posted in Case Summaries, Disability, Discrimination, Harassment, Retaliation
In an issue of first impression in this Fifth Circuit, the Court held that a volunteer firefighter making a Title VII claim of sexual harassment is not an “employee” for purposes of the statute and therefore had no legal claim. The case arose from a suit filed by a former firefighter for the Livingston Parish… Continue Reading

Fifth Circuit Reverses Controversial Trial Court Decision and Holds Termination of Employee for Expressing Breast Milk Constitutes Sex Discrimination

Posted in Case Summaries, Discrimination
Last week the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a widely criticized trial court ruling that had held that a discharge of an employee because she was lactating or expressing breast milk did not constitute unlawful sex discrimination.  In EEOC v. Houston Funding, II, Ltd, the employer moved for summary judgment arguing that Title VII did not… Continue Reading

Fifth Circuit Holds That Attorney’s Fees Not Recoverable In Title VII Mixed-Motive Retaliation Case

Posted in Case Summaries, Retaliation
In a recent case from the Fifth Circuit, the Court held that attorney’s fees are not recoverable for a prevailing plaintiff in a Title VII mixed-motive retaliation case. In Carter v. Luminant Power Serv. Co., the plaintiff employee brought a Title VII discrimination and retaliation claim alleging that he was disciplined for his complaints of racial… Continue Reading

U.S Supreme Court Hold’s Employer’s Offer of Full-Relief to FLSA Plaintiff Moots Putative Collective Action

Posted in Case Summaries, Wage & Hour
In what could become an important case for employers faced with FLSA wage and hour collective actions, the United States Supreme Court held that a named plaintiff who rejects an offer of judgment for full relief before any other party joins the action cannot continue to pursue the claims on behalf of the putative class because the… Continue Reading

Texas Whistleblower Act Does Not Cover Purely Internal Reports of Violations of Law Says Texas Supreme Court

Posted in Case Summaries
Texas law only recognizes a whistleblowing cause of action for public employees that, in good faith, report violations of law to an appropriate law enforcement authority. In two cases reported last month, the Supreme Court of Texas clarified that internal reports of violations of law, even if made in good faith, to officials having purely internal… Continue Reading

U.S. Supreme Court Holds that Arbitrator, Not State Court, Must Determine Enforceability of Noncompetition Agreement

Posted in Arbitration, Case Summaries, Noncompetes and Restrictive Covenants
In a per curiam opinion, the U.S. Supreme Court held that under the Federal Arbitration Act arbitrators, not courts,must determine the enforceability of covenants not to compete when the parties are subject to agreements that call for the mandatory arbitration of disputes. In Nitro-Lift Technologies v. Howard, two employees left their employment with Nitro-Lift and began working… Continue Reading

Fifth Circuit Interprets Ministerial Exception Broadly in Case of First Impression

Posted in Age, Case Summaries, Disability, Religion
Last term the U.S. Supreme Court confirmed the existence of the ministerial exception to many of the federal employment discrimination laws. This week, the Fifth Circuit took up the application of the ministerial exception for the first time since the Supreme Court’s opinion in Hosanna-Tabor and applied the exception broadly. Philip Cannata was the Music Director… Continue Reading