Our country’s preeminent position as an economic powerhouse is due, in large part, to the integrity and effort of the American worker. The many federal and state protections provided to employees are a recognition of this reality. This article will review a few of the many important protections available to you.

Minimum wage

The minimum wage and overtime protections provided by federal law were some of the earliest recognitions of the need to protect laborers from, exploitation by big businesses. While most employees understand minimum wage laws, problems often arise in connection with the overtime protections. For any time worked over forty hours in a calendar week, an employee is entitled to one and a half times their usual rate of pay. Certain employees are exempted from the overtime provisions of federal law, primarily those in a supervisory position. Often employees are designated as exempt supervisory employees when they are in fact entitled to overtime. If you have any questions about your status with respect to overtime pay contact The Wage and Hour Division of the Department of Labor or a local attorney. Failure to properly pay overtime can result in significant liability on the part of your employer.

Worker’s compensation

Too often workers sacrifice their health in the service of their employer. Recognizing the tragic result of such sacrifices, Texas encourages employers to maintain workman’s compensation insurance. Employers who have their employees best interest at heart will maintain such insurance. You can confirm whether your employer has workman’s compensation insurance by contacting the Workman’s Compensation Commission at (409) 899-5589. If your employer has not chosen to protect its employees with worker’s compensation and you are injured on your job, your employer is responsible to fully compensate you for all injuries for which the employer is at fault.

OSHA

As an employee, you never want to deal with the tragic consequences of an on-job injury. Often the recoveries are inadequate for the injuries suffered and money never fully compensates for your loss of health. Therefore be aware of your rights to a safe and healthy workplace under the Occupational Safety & Health Act (OSHA). You should notify OSHA of any workplace hazards. You have a right to ask OSHA to keep your name confidential. OSHA has the obligation to inspect the workplace and, if workplace hazards are identified, your employer must certify that these hazards have been reduced or eliminated within a specified period of time. If your employer discriminates against you for making safety and health complaints, you have additional legal protections. To learn more about your rights under OSHA or to make a complaint call a local attorney or contact OSHA at 1-800-321-OSHA.

Discrimination – Family & medical leave act

Most employees are aware of the laws preventing discrimination based on sex, age, race, religion or disability. If your employer discriminates against you based on one of these factors, you should immediately contact an employment attorney in your area. One of our more recent protections was created by the “Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) signed into law by President Clinton in 1993. This law recognizes unfairness of terminating or punishing an employee that is forced to miss work because of a personal injury or family medical emergency. If your employer is covered by the (FMLA), they must provide unpaid leave for an employee to care for their child after birth, to care for their spouse, child or parent who has serious health conditions, or to recover from a serious health condition that makes the employee unable to perform their job. During this leave, which can be up to 12 weeks, not only must your job be protected but the employer must maintain your health coverage under any group health plan. If you believe the FMLA has been violated contact the U.S. Department of Labor or an employment attorney.

Consult an employment attorney

The law provides many protections for employees but is certainly not perfect. For example, an employer in Texas may terminate an employee without good cause so long as the motivation for that termination did not violate any of the myriad of discrimination and retaliation protections provided by law. These protections and their many exceptions are much too involved to fully cover in this article. Whenever you have been treated unfairly by an employer, your best course of action is to contact an employment attorney for legal advice.

If you have any questions about a legal matter call us at 1-800-833-9151or contact us online.

Tom Oxford, Attorney
Waldman Smallwood Law Firm, P.C.

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