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April 2010 Archives

Houston Employment Lawyer Settles Suit With Pace Services

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Pace Services L.P., a Houston-area construction company, has agreed to pay a former employee $122,500 and provide additional remedial relief to settle a discrimination lawsuit that was filed with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The plaintiff, Mohammad Kaleemuddin, is of East Indian descent and asserted that a Pace supervisor referred to him as "terrorist," "Taliban," "Osama," and "Al-Qaeda."

Occupational Health and Safety News reports that even with numerous complaints, Mohammad Kaleemuddin claimed that Pace Services never took action to stop the racial harassment. Such harassment is in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act.

East Texas Man Claims He Was Fired Because of His Hepatitis

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A former employee with First Choice Personnel Services Inc. claims that he was fired from his job after his employer learned that he had hepatitis C. Now the man has a Texas employment lawyer and is filing a lawsuit against the company, alleging discrimination under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

The employee, Darrell Newcomer, names employers General Shelters of Texas Ltd., Center Staffing Solutions Inc., East Texas Staffing Solutions Inc., in the lawsuit. The three companies all do business as First Choice Personnel Services Inc. and Center Staffing Solutions.

Former Employee Sues Brookshire Grocery Company

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A woman from Shreveport, Louisiana has filed a racial discrimination lawsuit against Brookshire Grocery Company, alleging that she was repeatedly harassed on the job and that she was denied promotions by supervisors because of her African American race. The plaintiff, Carmencita Patton, claims that she suffered emotional stress and physical ailments, as a result of the discrimination.

The Shreveport Times reports that Carmencita Patton is seeking back pay, compensatory and punitive damages with the racial discrimination lawsuit. The plaintiff, along with many Texas Employment lawyers, is hoping that this particular racial discrimination lawsuit gets resolved. 

Mud Tech Employee Sues Company After Racial Slur

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Harrison Rogers, a former Mud Tech employee, claims that his supervisors and co-workers used discriminatory expressions about his race in the form of a racial slur in the workplace. He was employed as a painter, electrician's helper and welder's helper with the company for one year, but says that he never received a pay raise during the year in which he worked for the company because he was African American.

The Southeastern Record states that Harrison Rogers was fired from his position after the company owner allegedly told the man's supervisor, "That [n-word] ain't no painter. Fire him or I will." 

Job Fair In Draws a Large Crowd

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A job fair in Houston that happened earlier this week may be one of the biggest indicators that people in Harris County are still desperate to find employment. Fox News reports that there were dozens of unemployed Houstonians that showed up to the event on the southwest side of town on Wednesday.

There were 150 people that went to the West Gray Multi-service Center in the first 20 minutes of the fair in Houston. Some job seekers were forced to wait for hours if they wanted to talk to some select companies. And while a crowded job fair can be a good indicator of a desperate economy, the unemployment rate in Houston still amazingly stands better than most other regions of the country.

Sleeping on Job Gets Woman Fired...Or Was it Something Else?

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Teresa Wright was told that she was fired from her position at Fisher Controls International LLC for falling asleep on the job, but the woman claims that this was not the real reason for her termination. Instead, Teresa Wright claims that it was her gender that caused her to be terminated, as stated in the Southeast Texas Record.

According to a harassment and discrimination complaint filed in the Eastern District of Texas, Teresa Wright was hired to work with Fisher Controls International in the assembly department in 2005. She was eventually assigned to work on receiving docks, but alleges that she was harassed throughout the time that she worked on the receiving docks. The woman claims that she was treated differently than male employees who were similarly situated.

Newly Passed Health Care Bill Gives New Rights For Mothers

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President Barack Obama signed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act last month, which allows for new health-related provisions to take effect over the next several years. However, many people are unaware that this law also carries an amendment to the Fair Labor Standards Act and will give more employee rights for mothers who are nursing.

The National Conference of State Legislatures states that Section 207 of FLSA will be amended by requiring an employer to provide an employee with reasonable break time and a location that is not a bathroom to express breast milk. The law allows mothers to take these reasonable break times if they have children who are less than one-year-old. However, it's important to note that the employer is not required to compensate an employee receiving break time for such a purpose.

A plumber in Gavelston County is now trying to recover approximately $5,500 in unpaid services and materials and has hired Houston employment lawyers to take on his case.

The Southeast Texas Record reports that Theodore L. Nolan Jr., who does business as Sonny's Plumbing, alleges that Brentwood Homes has refused and has failed to pay for the services that he provided when doing work to the Northfield and Mary's Creek properties. Theodore Nolan's lawsuit was filed on April 19 in Galveston County Court. Agent Brian K. Seiler is named a co-defendant in the case. Galveston County Court No. 2 Judge C.G. "Trey" Dibrell has been assigned as the judge in the case.

Wings To Go Employee Files Lawsuit After Alleged Harassment

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Mindi Johnson claims that she was a victim of sexual harassment for months while working at a Wings to Go location. She claims that she quit her job because of the alleged harassment. While working at Wings To Go, she says that she became a subject of inappropriate and sexually explicit comments made by three co-employees, according to the Southeast Texas Record.

Those three employees were named in the sexual harassment lawsuit as Mike St. Julian, Kevin Lee, and Albert Francis. The lawsuit was filed in Jefferson County District Court against Mildred Enterprises, d/b/a (doing business as) Wings To Go. The complaint alleges that the men showed graphic pictures to Mindi Johnson and that they would unnecessarily graze at the woman's breasts and buttocks. On one occasion, Kevin Lee asked the woman to get on a counter top and take off her clothes.

Jane Draycott Returns to Work After Filing Lawsuit

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Jane Draycott's Houston employment lawyer told KHOU News that his client his going back to work today. This is just one week after suing the City of Houston over allegations of sexual harassment. The lawyer says that things are "so far, so good" for Jane Draycott, who is still working as a Houston firefighter at Fire Station 54. However, many employees who experience sexual harassment in the workplace often have a difficult time going back to the work environment.

Jane Draycott was put on paid administrative leave last summer after she and other female firefighters in Houston found offensive and sexist graffiti scrawled on their station lockers. The woman tried to return to her job at Station 54 earlier this year, but left shortly after a captain read a letter during roll call that said she wasn't to be trusted.

Allowing Men to Go on Paternity Leave

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The Massachusetts State Senate recently approved legislation to ensure that men are able to take time off work when they have children and still keep their jobs, according to The Eagle Tribune. A law like this may bring up questions for Texas employment lawyers and lawmakers, because it could encourage the Lone Star state to adopt similar measures.

Under the federal Family Medical Leave Act, both men and woman are guaranteed up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave when they have children. Yet, there are many provisions under FMLA that don't allow every employee the right to take this much time off work. FindLaw states that FMLA only needs to apply to companies that have 50 or more employees. If a company is covered by FMLA, then an employee is only qualified for FMLA benefits if he or she has worked for the company for at least 12 months and has worked at least 1,250 hours during the 12 months immediately prior to taking the leave.

Sonic Drive-In Pays Another Sex-Discrimination Settlement

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A former employee of a Sonic Drive-In Restaurant in Georgia will be receiving a $70,000 settlement in a sex discrimination lawsuit, according to the Atlanta Business Chronicle. The settlement, which was reached on Thursday, comes shortly after another sexual harassment case against the Sonic Drive-In franchise that was settled in Grapevine, Texas.

SDI Athens East LLC, which does business as a Sonic Drive-In Restaurant in Athens, Georgia, will be paying the settlement. In this case, an employment lawyer with the U.S Equal Opportunity Commission, alleged that a store manager at the Athens Sonic Drive-In subjected a female carhop to a barrage of sexually charged comments and repeated sexual overtures. Because of the unwanted sexual advances, the female employee felt that she had to resign from her position. The lawsuit was first filed in July 2008 in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Georgia.

The Census Bureau Accused of Discrimination

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The U.S. government hired 48,000 temporary employees in March to work for the Census Bureau, yet some job applicants have since filed a lawsuit against the government, alleging discrimination against minorities in the hiring process.

The Wall Street Journal reports that the decennial population count is one of the largest single sources of new jobs in the current economy; with approximately 4 million people applying for just over 1 million positions. Yet the lawsuit filed on Tuesday states that the Census Bureau is unlawfully screening out minorities by requiring all applicants to provide court documents related to an arrest, whether or not it resulted in a conviction.

Police Officers Accused of Overtime Fraud

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Under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), most employees are required to be paid at least one and one-half times their regular rate of pay when working overtime (usually working more than 40 hours per week). So a person who is strapped for cash may want to be working overtime whenever possible; because of the large pay increase. However, an employee can get in serious trouble if he or she commits overtime fraud. This type of crime occurs when a person is wrongfully paid overtime wages for hours that have not been worked.

According to WFAA, four to six Fort Worth police officers have been accused of altering traffic tickets to receive overtime pay. Department spokesman Lt. Paul Henderson explained that the officers were writing an abundance of tickets during their normal duty hours, then turning those tickets in at a later time.

Steny Hoyer Says The ENDA Bill Will Likely Pass This Year

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House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer is optimistic about the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) and believes that the bill will finally pass this year. The ENDA bill aims to prevent employers from discrimination based on gender identity or sexual orientation. CBS News reports that with this positive attitude on the bill, gay rights activists are determined to beat out conservative groups trying to present scare tactics.

"If there's anything that ENDA teaches children it's that everyone deserves an equal chance to earn a living," Human Rights Campaign Spokesperson Michael Cole told CBS News.

Sandia Drilling Co. Facing Employee Discrimination Lawsuit

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Three employees of Sandia Drilling Company have filed an employee discrimination lawsuit against their employer and company supervisors, alleging that they worked in a racially hostile environment with the company. The Southeast Texas Record reports that the company supervisors regularly and frequently called plaintiffs Montrel D. Pipkins, Meldun L. Williamson and Brian I. Rocha degrading names.

But the racial discrimination claim doesn't stop with just the racial slurs. The complaint alleges that company supervisors gave preferential treatment to white employees, accused black employees of stealing, and even witheld pay raises and other entitlements because of race. The employees filed complaints with the U.S Equal Employment Opportunity Commission about the alleged harassment.

Houston Independent School District Cutting Over 414 Jobs

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Angry employees packed into a Houston school board room last week only to hear bad news. Houston Independent School District trustees voted in favor of the superintendent's recommendation to cut 170 more jobs at the end of the school year. Fox News reports that with 170 more jobs being cut, the district is now eliminating a grand total of 414 positions.

While the majority of the 414 positions are in the district's administrative offices, 99 of the eliminated jobs are teaching positions. The reduction of positions comes in response to the district's $28 million dollar budget shortfall. The cutting of jobs is expected to save the school district $4.8 million dollars.

Female Firefighters Suing Houston Fire Department

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Jane Draycott, a female Houston firefighter, filed a sexual harassment lawsuit against the Houston Fire Department on Monday in the Harris County state district court. The lawsuit listed numerous allegations of sexual harassment. She says that she endured years of sexual harassment and faced retaliation anytime she complained about it, according to the Houston Chronicle.

The female firefighter had been working with the fire department for more than eight years before she was put on leave in July. She took paid administrative leave in July after she was targeted with sexist graffiti that was sprayed in her quarters at the fire station. The woman was supposed to return to work earlier this year. ABC News reported that she was actually one of several female firefighters in Houston that experienced harassment through the offensive graffiti. Investigators have still not been able to find a suspect for the graffiti incident.

Martin Ebel to Lead EEOC in Houston

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The U.S Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in Houston now has a new man in charge and his name is Martin Ebel.

The Houston Chronicle reports that Martin Ebel recently joined the EEOC in Houston as the new deputy director. He was previously a commissioner on the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination and worked as an employment lawyer in Boston. But what's most striking about the man is that he uses a wheelchair. Martin Ebel is a double-above-the-knee amputee. And while he is considered to be disabled, he still manages to play golf and even participates as a golf instructor in a program called "The First Swing." The program teaches golf and health care professionals how to use golf as a rehabilitative tool.

A former female employee of a Sonic Drive-In Restaurant in Grapevine claims that she was sexually harassed by her manager while working on the job at the age of 17 years of age. Erin Schwarzbach, now 21, was able to reach a settlement with Sonic restaurant last week. The company agreed to pay $31,000 to the young woman.

Yet the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports that the company still denies any wrongdoing or mistreatment of Erin Schwarzbach, and does not admit any liability. An attorney representing Sonic said that the reason for the settlement was to purely avoid litigation expenses.

University of Houston Getting Hit With Furloughs

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The University of Houston is trying to tighten its budget by implementing mandatory furlough days for faculty members, according to the Houston Chronicle. The furlough will apply to all full-time employees, which is about 4,000 people on the central campus. However, employees who earn below a certain amount will be exempt from taking mandatory time off without pay. The furloughs are expected to cut more than $15 million dollars from the university's budget over the next 17 months.

The story of furloughs at UH is sadly not all that uncommon. In addition to furloughs, some educational institutions have been forced to resort to layoffs. The Houston Chronicle reports that the University of Texas at Austin has laid off several dozen people in recent months in hopes of tightening a stiff budget. The university has also eliminated other positions through attrition and retirements. Employees at UH will also be expected take up to three unpaid days off this summer.

Texas Mutual Insurance Co. Wins Workers' Comp Fraud Case

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Employees who are injured on the job can usually apply for workers' compensation through the Texas Department of Insurance. Yet it's important to realize that the Lone Star state has specific rules and laws when it comes to receiving workers' compensation. When people don't follow these rules and gain personal benefits that they're not legally entitled to, they can be charged with workers' compensation fraud; which would lead them to need a Texas employment lawyer.

MSN Money reports that a Travis County court recently ordered Lashantae Reeves to repay $21,000 she collected from an Austin-based workers' compensation insurer. In addition to repaying the benefits, she was sentenced to one year deferred adjudication. This fraud case came about when the worker claimed that an injury disabled her from her job. Yet, Lashantae Reeves continued to accept payments from the workers' compensation carrier Texas Mutual Insurance Co. after she went back to work as a law firm customer service representative in and health clinic education coordinator in Houston.

Former TSU Baskeball Coach Files Discrimination Lawsuit

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A former Texas Southern University coach for the woman's basketball team believes that she was fired from her position in 2008 because of gender discrimination. Now, the woman has hired Houston employment lawyer Todd Slobin to represent her in a lawsuit against the university. The former coach is now looking to recover back pay and equitable relief, or fair renumeration, according to Fox News.

The discrimination lawsuit was filed by Houston employment attorney Todd Slobin on March 25. In this case the plaintiff, Surina Dixon, is bringing the lawsuit under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act. FindLaw states that Title VII ensures equal rights for both genders in the workplace and protects people from sex discrimination. Title VII also prohibits retaliation against an employee who reports or opposes discriminatory employment practices. More information about Title VII can be found through our Related Resources pages.

Jennifer Lindsey worked as a hair stylist at Sports Clips in Kemah, but when she fell while cutting a customer's hair in October 2009, a doctor ordered that she take time off from work. Two days later she was threatened with termination by her supervisor Victoria Jefferson, according to the Southeast Texas Record.

The employee was also pregnant at the time of the incident, but she decided to go back to work with a knee brace in order to avoid job loss. While at work, the employee claims that she was repeatedly yanked backwards by her supervisor while she was styling a customer's hair, because the supervisor didn't agree with the way she was styling.

Texas Sees an Increase in Jobless Claims

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While the number of jobless claims were declining last month, CNN now reports that more and more people are filing for unemployment insurance for the first time. Data from the U.S Labor Department shows that there were 460,000 initial jobless claims filed in the week that ended April 3. This number was up by 18,000 from the previous week.

The Labor Department also reports that there were 4,550,000 people who filed continuing claims in the week ended March 27. And while that number may seem quite large, the 4.5 million continuing claims resemble the lowest level of continuing claims since December 20, 2008.

Employee at Lowe's Home Centers Files Discrimination Suit

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An employee of Lowe's Home Centers has filed a religious discrimination lawsuit against the company, alleging that his employer wouldn't let him take time off on his Sabbath. The U.S Employment Equal Opportunity Commission (EEOC) brought the suit after the employee at the Morristown, Tennessee location was reduced from full-time to part-time status against his wishes.

According to a press release, the employee informed Lowe's of his sincere religious belief as a Baptist against working on the Sabbath, which is Sunday. He submitted a request for a religious accommodation not to be scheduled for work on Sunday. Yet the company denied the request because Lowe's said that it might create a hardship on other employees who might like to have Sundays off. This type of discrimination violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

25,500 Houston Construction Workers Experience Job Loss

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Around the country thousands of construction workers have lost their jobs, leaving many of these newly unemployed workers to file for unemployment benefits. The Washington Business Journal reports that only 10 out of 337 metropolitan areas in the United States actually added construction jobs from February 2009 to February 2010, according to the Associated General Contractors of America.

Even worse for Texans, the city of Houston lost 25,500 construction jobs during this period, which is more than any other metro area. With a 13 percent decrease in construction jobs, Houston was one of 230 areas that saw double digit declines in construction employment.

Judge Dismisses Lawsuit Against Church of Scientology

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Claire Headley has filed a lawsuit against the Church of Scientology in the Los Angeles federal court, alleging that she worked 100-hour weeks as a member of the Scientology's elite inner corps for almost no pay. The woman also claims that the church coerces members of the inner corps to get abortions and engages in forced labor.

However, the Baltimore Sun reports that U.S. District Judge Dale Fischer dismissed the wage claims portion of Ms. Headley's lawsuit last week, citing that Ms. Headley was exempt from wage requirements because her work was part of a religious order. The judge has not yet addressed the other two issues regarding forced labor and forced abortions.

Chemical Exposure Leads to Lawsuit Against BNSF Railway

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Sean Gaffney, an employee with BNSF Railway Co., recently filed a lawsuit against the company because of he allegedly suffered great physical and mental pain after inhaling chemicals on the job.

The Southeast Texas Record reports that the employee who had been working with BNSF since March 2008, claims that he was exposed to chemicals that caused him serious injury. The lawsuit against his employer was filed in Jefferson County District Court on March 25.

Are Unpaid Internships Legal?

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With a scarce number of job openings for young workers, The New York Times reports that there's a growing number of unpaid internships around the country. Yet many students and young workers might be unaware that most unpaid internships with for-profit employers are illegal and are in violation of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).

And while many unpaid interns might be scared to report the company that they're working for, the federal Labor Department says that it's now cracking down on firms that fail to pay interns properly. The Labor Department is also expanding efforts to educate companies, colleges, and students on the law regarding internships.

Who is Entitled to Workers' Compensation?

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It's important to know that not everybody is eligible for workers' compensation coverage if they're injured on the job. While workers' compensation should cover most employees, certain types of workers are usually excluded. FindLaw states that these exclusions usually apply to independent contractors, casual workers, farm workers, and unpaid volunteers.

Workers Comp reports that the recent case of Goldminz v. City of Dallas reminds community members about workers' compensation eligibility. The appeals case, that was filed in February 2010, explains that under Texas law a person is not entitled to workers' compensation if he is in the service of a political subdivision and is paid on a piecework basis or on a basis other than by the hour, day, week, month, or year.

Houston's Unemployment Rate Takes a Fall

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The Houston Chronicle reports that Houston-area employers added 10,300 jobs from January to February this year, making the city's unemployment rate take a slight dip.  Now, Houston employment lawyers and economists say that the city is starting to make a slow recovery from the recession.

The local unemployment rate fell to 8.5 percent in February, which was down from 8.8 percent in January. Data from the Texas Workforce Commission showed that the state's unemployment rate still sits at 8.2 percent. Yet Houston's job growth is a key sign that the economy is starting to pick up.

Office Depot Employee Files FMLA Lawsuit Against Company

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Under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), most employees of large companies have the right to take extended time away from work in order to handle certain family or medical needs. Employers that are covered by FMLA can be sued if they don't let an employee take such time or punish an employee for taking the family medical leave.

The Southeast Texas Record reports that a manager for the Office Depot in Frisco was allegedly demoted from her position after taking time off to deal with the death of her father. Because the ex-manager, Sheri Vigoda, believes that her demotion was unlawful, she has filed a lawsuit against Office Depot of Texas LP and Office Depot Inc. in the Sherman division of the Eastern District of Texas.

Woman Claims Discrimination at Pro Field Services

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Kisha Ridley worked as a dispatcher at Pro Field Services for nine months, and during her duration of employment, she claims that she was subjected to racial discrimination and racial harassment, according to the Southeast Texas Record. She believes that with her white male supervisor's alleged racial slurs, she was working in a racially hostile work environment.

Ms. Ridley claims that the work environment was so severe that she sought medical treatment. While under medical care, she was reportedly terminated from her position.

Here's a very sad employment law story that Texas employment lawyers will be dealing with.

The Southeast Texas Record reports that Natalie Schroeder was seven months pregnant with twins, but that doctors had considered her pregnancy a high risk. Doctors required the woman to see a physician and a specialist frequently with the appointments taking roughly an hour each time.

Her employer had accommodated her appointments for seven months, but she was forced to miss an appointment in her seventh month of pregnancy after her supervisor had urged her to finish up a report. But three days later, Ms. Schroeder went into labor and delivered one healthy baby and one stillborn son. The woman alleges that that her son's fetal distress would have been recognized and possibly prevented if her supervisor had allowed her to go in for her doctor's appointment.

Metro Employees File Lawsuit Alleging Overtime Violations

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The Houston Chronicle reports that Bente Sellars and Bridget Cormier, the two employees who filed a lawsuit against Metro earlier this year, are now seeking class-action status with their case. The suit alleges that the transit agency makes employees work off the clock without proper compensation.

Houston employment lawyer Rex Burch said that Mr. Sellars and Ms. Cormier used to clock between 5 to 15 hours a week of overtime hours at their job. Their overtime pay should have represented a significant portion of their compensation because overtime is time and a half. But in November 2008, their supervisors initiated a new policy of zero overtime in order to cut down on costs. Yet, Ms. Sellars and Ms. Cormier claim that their workload didn't really change and that they would work more than 40 hours in a given week. This lawsuit alleges violations of the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).

Understanding The Texas Workers' Compensation Act

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Thousands of workers in the state of Texas suffer from work-related injuries each year. Fortunately, the state has a workers' compensation system to compensate employees for accidental injuries.

The Texas Department of Insurance states that employers in Texas are typically allowed to decide whether or not they will cover their employees under the state's workers' compensation program. Employers who decide not to accept the provisions of the program lose the right to assert certain defenses if the employer is sued by an employee for an injury. While most employees are eligible for workers' compensation benefits when the employer is covered, certain types of workers are not always eligible. Casual workers, independent contractors, and certain seasonal and migrant farm workers are not always covered.