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March 2011 Archives

Getting Paid For Transportation Time

When you drive to work, you don't expect to be compensated for just getting there. But what if you get to work and the boss tells you to hop in a van and go across town to work at a temporary jobsite? You'd probably expect to be paid for your time, wouldn't you? This is what happened at Becon Construction.

Employees with Becon Construction Co. were required to report to a certain work location at a specific time and then from there they would be transported on a bus to the company's Motiva facility, according to The Southeast Texas Record. However, the employees were reportedly not compensated for the travel time.

Harris County Deputies Say Layoffs Are Form of Retaliation

A group of female deputies who used to work at Harris County Precinct 1 were laid off last week, but the women claim that their job losses were not because of budgetary reasons. Fox News reported that the women had filed sex discrimination complaints with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) in the past and that their loss of jobs was a form of retaliation.

However, Chief Deputy J.C. Mosier said on Fox News that there was no retaliation and that their only option was to let people go during tough economic times when budget cuts are necessary. Some women who lost their jobs in Precinct 1 say that the county-mandated budget cuts gave the constable’s office an excuse to get rid of them.

With Improving Economy, More Summer Jobs Available

Landing a summer job this year could be easier than it was last year with CNN Money reporting that 55 percent of hiring managers say that they plan to hire seasonal workers over the summer season. Ten percent of the hiring managers surveyed said that they would be hiring more seasonal staff than last summer.

The other good news is that Houston summer employees could also be better paid with the improving economy and trend of increasing wages, as there are a number of indicators that employers will be able to pay workers more money this year. This includes the fact that more hiring managers are saying that they plan to pay their employees higher wages over the summer.

Employee Class Action Suit Seeks Billions of Dollars From Wal-Mart

Wal-Mart is facing the largest sex discrimination class-action lawsuit in history and the U.S. Supreme Court will finally be hearing arguments in the case starting on March 29. Reuters reports that this lawsuit was first filed by Betty Dukes and five other California employees in 2001. Now, ten years later, the lawsuit could be affecting as more than 1.5 million women that are current or former employees of the company.

Female employees of one of America's largest employers claim through the class-action lawsuit that they were not paid as much as their male counterparts and that the women of Wal-Mart were often turned down for promotions due to gender bias.

Employee Files Racial Discrimination Lawsuit Against Texas City

A man who used to work for the Texas City Police Department claims that his termination was racially motivated and he is now seeking at least $300,000 in monetary damages due to the alleged wrongful termination.

According to The Southeast Texas Record, the plaintiff Ismael Alcocer is of Hispanic descent and claims that he was subjected to race-based harassment after he made it known he had a relationship with Texas City Fire Department Captain Kelly Rotrock, an African American woman. Alocer is now reportedly married to Rotrock.

Employee Accuses Basic Energy Services of Sexual Harassment

A woman who used to work as a staff assistant with the South Texas Region of Basic Energy Services claims that she was wrongfully terminated from her job after she made complaints of sexual harassment to her supervisor. The Victoria Advocate reports that the female employee Tonia Martinets filed a lawsuit against the company in federal court earlier this month, alleging violations of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.

Hong Kong Market Pays Millions of Dollars for FLSA Violations

The popular Hong Kong Market grocery chain in Houston has agreed to pay $1.8 million in back wages to nearly 400 workers for Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) violations. According to The Houston Chronicle, a recent investigation by the U.S. Department of Labor found that workers with Hong Kong Market were not only denied overtime pay, but that some people were also paid below the minimum wage of $7.25 an hour.

In addition to back wages, Hong Kong Market must also pay an additional $200,000 in civil penalties for repeat FLSA violations. Apparently, the company the company continued to violate labor laws after being put on notice by the Labor Department for similar violations.

Lawsuit Filed Against Conex for Violation of WARN Act

Under the Worker Adjustment and Retraining (WARN) Act, employers with 100 or more employees are required to provide notice of 60 calendar days in advance of covered plant closings and covered mass layoffs. FindLaw states that the purpose of this law is to protect workers and their families if they're working for large companies or for state or local governments and facing termination. Employers who violate WARN provisions could be ordered to pay back pay and benefits to each employee for the period of violation.

One Jefferson County plant is facing a class action lawsuit for allegedly violating this law. The Southeast Texas Record reports that the lawsuit was filed by the employee Ronald Glenn Snook, who claims that at least 50 employees at Conex International were terminated without a proper 60-day notice required under the WARN Act. Heico Companies and Heico Holding Inc. were also named in the suit.

Houston's Unemployment Rate Higher Than State Average

Texas Workforce Commission data indicates that the unemployment rate in the Houston-Sugar Land-Baytown metropolitan area was at 8.8 percent in the month of January, which is significantly higher than the state's unemployment average of 8.3 percent for that same month.

Perhaps Houston residents will have greater difficulties finding jobs compared to other people in the state. Yet The Houston Business Journal reports that the state of Texas has generally gained jobs so far in the year 2011. The largest state employment increase in January was in the trade, transportation and utilities category, which added 15,800 jobs to the workforce for the month.

American Apparel founder Dov Charney has become a well-known CEO in part for being involved in several different scandals. NBC New York reports that in the past Charney has been accused of firing workers based on their appearance and using Woody Allen's image without permission for an American Apparel campaign. Yet the businessman might be about to face is toughest and most severe lawsuit yet.

Reuters reports that 20-year-old Irene Morales has filed a $250 million lawsuit in a New York state court against Charney and American Apparel, alleging that she was subjected to sexual harassment, gender discrimination, retaliation, and a hostile work environment while working with the company.

Should Parents Get Paid Maternity Leave?

The United States is one of just three out of 181 nations worldwide that does not have any law requiring paid maternity leave. Not even federal employees in this country are entitled to pay while taking time off to care for a newborn. And who are the other two nations? Papua New Guinea and Swaziland.

Africana Online reports that while the Family Medical Leave Act of 1993 allows employees to take up to 12 unpaid weeks off from work and not lose their job, many families cannot afford to be without the 12 weeks of income. Studies from the New York-based Families and Work Institute have concluded that 27 percent of private corporations offered paid maternity leave in 1998, but that this number declined to just 16 percent in 2008. There's been a trend of eliminating paid paternity leave among private companies.

Many Texas State Employees to Experience Layoffs

At a time where the state is strapped for cash, the Texas government is now in a place where layoffs have become an essential way to overcome a $15 million shortfall. The Texas Department of Criminal Justice and Texas Education Agency are just two government sectors that will have to soon cut employees.

The Houston Chronicle reports that 555 jobs at Texas prisons will be eliminated due to the Department of Criminal Justice's need to cut spending. The workforce reduction will reportedly not affect the number of prison guard positions that the state currently has, but the layoffs will consist of losing 400 administrative and support jobs as well as 155 positions at Project RIO (Re-Integration of Offenders).

Right now, there are no federal laws or Texas laws that prohibit employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. However, some equality activists are looking to change this and are pushing for the passage of Texas House Bill 538, which would bar employment discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression.

According to, the Houston jurisdiction has a law that prohibits discrimination in public employment on the basis of gender identity and expression. Yet there are still no such laws at the state level. Perhaps this will soon change.