San Antonio Employment Law Blog

San Antonio Employment Law Blog

Popeye’s Manager Fired after Refusing to Pay for Robbery

Posted in General

This is the ugly side of at-will employment. Under at-will employment, a worker can be fired for any reason, so long as the reason does not involve discrimination and a few other rare exceptions. Marissa Holcomb was fired from her job as manager at the Popeye’s in Channel View, a Houston suburb after the place was robbed. The robber took $400 from the cash register. Ms. Holcomb was told to pay back the $400 or be fired. The pregnant mother of three chose to be fired. She could not afford to pay $400, especially after risking her life for her employer. The robber pointed a pistol at her and others during the incident.

Ms. Holcomb was fired less than 36 hours after the robbery. A franchise spokeman said she was fired because she left too much money in the register. She had been warned about that previously. But, responded Ms. Holcomb, they

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Texas Committee Seeks to Reduce Veterans Benefits

Posted in General

Just a few years ago, most Texans were anxious to help veterans. The Texas legislature passed an amendment to the Hazelwood Act which would allow free tuition at state schools for veterans. The veteran could pass that benefit to his/her children. The Texas act did not require service after the amendment was passed. While, the federal version did require service after the act went into effect. That difference harmed veterans like myself who deployed but retired or who left military service afterward. Under the federal GI Bill, I cannot pass my unused benefits to my children. But, under the state version, I could pass those benefits to my children.

But, now, the Texas legislature is considering rescinding that benefit. A state Senate committee approved a measure which would require six years of service after the act was passed. It would also reduce the number of credit hours from 150 to 60. See

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Texas Whistleblower Protects State, Local Government Employees

Posted in Litigation and trial practice

Texas has limited whistleblower protection. Texas Government Code Sec. 554 protects public employees who report violations of law to the appropriate law enforcement agency.  See statute. The Texas Whistleblower Act provides for a 90 days deadline in which to file suit. It also requires an employee to first file a grievance if the state or local agency provides for a grievance procedure. If the employee files a grievance, then the duration of the grievance will toll the statute of limitations (ie, toll the deadline).

The good faith report of the violation of law would need to be made to the appropriate law enforcement agency. Note that provision means simply reporting to a supervisor at work will not suffice.

There is no equivalent statute for private employees. There is no whistleblower type protection for private sector employees. But, as I wrote earlier,  a private employee would be protected

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Litigation is not too Different from any Other Sales Pitch

Posted in General

I love the free enterprise system. But, it only works well if we are smart consumers. There are many sellers out there who will try to sell us things we do not need. My girlfriend was looking at a new car, recently. She asked for a breakdown of the total cost. She was quite surprised to see an extended warranty already included in the price. She had not asked for the extended warranty, and no one had asked her about the warranty. They just kind of slipped it in when she wasn’t looking.

The litigation business is like that, sometimes. I was reminded of that recently when I attended a mixer at a local business. When I told a smart business woman that I represent mostly employees in employment lawsuits, she made the cross symbol with her fingers like she was warding off evil spirits. She explained later that I was the

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Texas Statutes of Limitation

Posted in Defamation, Litigation and trial practice

In the legal business, lawsuits are governed by deadlines referred to as “statutes of limitation.”  A lawsuit must be filed within the applicable statute of limitation.  A suit based on personal injury must be filed within two years of the act complained of.  If the last day of the two year period falls on a weekend or a holiday, then the statute of limitations period is extended until the next business day.  A lawsuit based on the state statute which prohibits discrimination must be filed within two years.  This statute is known as the Texas Commission on Human Rights Act.

A suit based on defamation, libel or slander must be filed within one year of the act complained about.  A suit based on breach of an oral contract must be filed within two years of the alleged breach.  Suit on a written contract must be filed within four years of the alleged

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Eight Questions Not to Ask in an Interview

Posted in General
Pen

In a recent survey by Harris Poll, researchers found that 20% of hiring managers have asked unlawful questions in interviews. They asked these unlawful questions not realizing at the time that such questions could lead to legal liability. CareerBuilder commissioned the survey. A CareerBuilder representative says an interviewee asked these sorts of questions could decline to answer. if the hiring manager insists on an answer, that might not be the place to work. Those questions include:

  • What is your political affiliation?
  • What is your race, color, or ethnicity?
  • How old are you?
  • Are you disabled?
  • Are you married?
  • Do you have children or plan to?
  • Are you in debt?
  • Do you social drink or smoke?

I understand some of these questions being illegal. Some are apparent. But, I do not see a problem in asking someone if s/he smokes or drinks. And, just to remind my readers, these questions only become an issue if some adverse personnel actions develops later

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Ft. Hood Victims Receive Recognition

Posted in General

I previously wrote about the attack at Ft. Hood by Major Hassan here and here. Now, the victims of that attack have received some recogntion. The military service members received Purple Hearts and the civilian victims received the civilian Defense of Freedom Medal. The widow of CW2 (Ret) Michael Cahill received the Defense of Freedom medal. The same Michael Cahill who raised a chair over his head to strike the Major, before Hassan poured several rounds into the retired warrant officer. The soldiers and retired soldiers were unarmed, but that did not keep them from attacking their attacker. See San Antonio Express News report.

These “victims” were not true victims. Until the very end, they were attacking a murderer. As service members are trained to do, they were defending the defenseless.

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Employee Handbooks Are Not Binding

Posted in Contracts, Employee handbook

Most large employers have employee handbooks, those set of policies that explain things like vacation and sick leave, discipline, etc. Employers will often describe how they are “binding” and must be followed. But, legally, they are not binding, at all. They look thorough and professional and provide some comfort to employees in an uncertain world.

They are generally not binding on the employer. They are nothing more than a guideline.  If the employer included a phrase providing they are not contractual, then they will not be binding. And, most, perhaps all employers do include non-binding type language in the handbook.

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VA Nurse Fusses at Veteran

Posted in General

I have been to the Tejeda VA Clinic here in San Antonio many times and have always treated well and with respect. But, not every veteran is treated well. One veteran was fussed at in a condescending tone by the nurse when he sought a second prescription, because the first prescription had been mis-delivered. See KENS 5 news report. The nurse seemed to be insisting the prescription had indeed been delivered to him. This video made the rounds on social media several days before someone sent it to KENS.

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Former Law Firm Associate Wins Less than Hoped for

Posted in Litigation and trial practice
Courthouse

In a high profile lawsuit, a young female lawyer sued her former employer, Faruqi and Faruqi, a large national law firm, for sex harassment. Alexandra Marchuk obviously hoped for more, but the jury only awarded her $140,000. The award included $90,000 in compensatory damages (i.e, emotional suffering), and $50,000 in punitive damages. See Above the Law post. As one juror explains, some women did not accept Ms. Marchuk’s story. Some jurors did not believe it was as bad as she claimed. A key issue in a sexual harassment case is whether the sexual attention was unwelcome. The jurors apparently felt it was not unwelcome, or if the advances were unwelcome, they were not “severe,” as the law requires. (Note that some lawyers disagree that the caselaw requires “severe and pervasive.” Some of us believe the law requires the harassment to be severe or pervasive). Regarding a sexual encounter, the jurors

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