10 Major Employment Laws That Every Texas Business Owner Should Know

Building a successful business usually takes a lot of hard work and time.  An ill-timed lawsuit can cause significant damage to the business or even completely ruin it.  Many lawsuits brought by disgruntled employees or rejected job applicants can result in double or triple damages under federal and state employment laws, thousands in attorneys fees, and can cause an irreparable damage to the business’ reputation.  So why risk it?

In this post, I provide a quick reference list of the major Federal and Texas employment laws.  Most of these statutes apply to all private employers, no matter the size or type of business; but some statutes apply only to businesses with a certain number of employees or volume of business.

As a business owner, knowing which laws apply to your company and complying with them can save you a lot of money.

1. Fair Labor & Standard Act (FLSA) 

  • Applies to (1) private employers with at least $500,000 a year in business; (2) hospitals, businesses providing medical or nursing care for residents, schools, preschools and government agencies (federal, state, and local); (3) employees of companies with less than $500,000 a year in business if the employees engage in interstate commerce i.e. commerce between the states.
    • Basically, every business in the USA is covered by the FLSA unless it is a purely local business with less than $500,000  a year in business.
  • Establishes the minimum wage of $7.25 per hour and requires overtime pay at a rate of  not less than one and one-half times the regular rate of pay for any hours worked after 40 hours of work in a workweek by any covered non-exempt employees.
  • Enforced by the Department of Labor (DOL).

2. Texas Minimum Wage Act

  • Applies to all private employers, no matter the size.
  • Establishes a minimum wage for non-exempt employees that is tied to the FLSA’s minimum wage and requires the employers to provide each employee with a written earnings statement about the employee’s pay.
  • Enforced by the Texas Workforce Commission (TWC).

3. The Equal Pay Act (EPA)

4. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title 7)

  • Applies to any private businesses with 15 or more employees.
  • Prohibits discrimination based on race, color, religion, national origin, and sex, which includes pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions (see a related post regarding pregnancy discrimination here). This is the law that typically gives rise to sexual harassment claims.
  • Enforced by the EEOC.

5. The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA)

  • Applies to all private businesses with 20 or more employees.
  • Prohibits employment discrimination against persons 40 years of age or older.
  • Enforced by the EEOC.

6. Title I and V of the Americans With Disabilities Act of 1999 (ADA)

  • Applies to all private businesses with 15 or more employees.
  • Prohibits discrimination against qualified individuals with disabilities (physical or mental impairments that substantially limits one or more major life activities) or individuals regarded as having such disabilities.
  • Enforced by the the EEOC.

7. The Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 (IRCA)

8. The Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA)

  • Applies to private-sector employers, with at least 50 employees in 20 or more workweeks in the current or preceding calendar year.
  • Only the following employees will qualify: (1) has worked for the employer for at least 12 non-consecutive months; (2) has at least 1,250 hours of service for the employer during the 12 month period immediately preceding the leave; and (3) works at a location where the employer has at least 50 employees within 75 miles.
  • Allows eligible employees to take up to 12 workweeks of leave in a 12-month period for one or more of the following reasons: (1) the birth of a son or daughter or placement of a son or daughter with the employee for adoption or foster care; (3) for a serious health condition that makes the employee unable to perform the essential functions of his or her job; or (4) for any qualifying exigency arising out of the fact that a spouse, son, daughter, or parent is a military member on covered active duty or call to covered duty status.
  • Enforced by the DOL.

9. The Occupational Safety & Health Act (OSHA)

  • Applies to all private employers, no matter the size.
  • Requires that each employer “furnish … a place of employment which [is] free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm to his employees.”
  • Enforced by the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA).

10.  The Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Act (USERRA)

  • Applies to all private employers, no matter the size
  • Requires employers to reemploy returning service-members in the same position that they would have attained had they not been absent for military service, with the same seniority, status and pay, as well as other rights and benefits determined by seniority.
  • Enforced by the Veterans’ Employment and Training Service (VETS)

Virtually all of the laws on this list also prohibit retaliation against employees who have complained about the violation of these statutes, filed a charge of discrimination, or participated in an employment investigation or lawsuit arising out of the violations.

FLeiza Dolghih is a partner at Lewis Brisbois Bisgaard & Smith LLP in Dallas, Texas and a Co-Chair of the firm’s Trade Secrets and Non-Compete Disputes national practice.  His practice includes commercial, intellectual property and employment litigation.  You can contact her directly at Leiza.Dolghih@LewisBrisbois.com or (214) 722-7108.

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