At the Waco, Texas law office of Cullar & McLeod, LLP, we are dedicated to preventing, stopping, and remedying the effects of illegal discrimination and harassment in the workplace throughout McLennan County and across Texas.
We also represent clients who have been unfairly taken advantage of in wage and overtime claims, or who have been wrongfully terminated.
Discrimination in the Workplace
Both state and federal laws protect an employee from unlawful discrimination on the basis of characteristics such as race, color, national origin, religion, sex (gender), age, disability, or genetic information. These protections extend to every phase of employment, from applications and hiring, to assignments and transfers, pay, demotions, and termination. Below are some of the major laws protecting employees from discrimination:
-Disability - The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) prohibits employment discrimination against a qualified individual with a disability, defined as someone who can perform the essential functions of the job with or without reasonable accommodation. Also prohibited is discrimination against persons regarded as having a disability or with a record of a disability, even if they are not presently disabled.
-Race - Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 makes it illegal to discriminate against someone on the basis of race. Not only is disparate treatment of an employee based on race prohibited, but policies and practices which in effect have a disparate impact on people of different races may be unlawful as well. The law also prohibits retaliation against an employee for complaining about discrimination or filing a charge or discrimination lawsuit.
-Pregnancy - The Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) makes it illegal to discriminate against a woman because of pregnancy, childbirth, or any related medical condition.
-Age - Workers 40 years of age or older are protected by the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA). Employers may not discriminate against older workers or enact policies which favor younger workers at the expense of those covered under the ADEA.
The law recognizes two forms of illegal harassment. Quid pro quo harassment exists when a superior seeks a romantic relationship with a subordinate and conditions favorable or unfavorable job treatment based on the employee's willingness to accept. Also, other unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature may become so severe and pervasive that it creates a hostile work environment for the employee. A hostile environment can be created by inappropriate touching, offensive comments, or sexually derogatory or demeaning written or graphic materials in the workplace. Hostile environment sexual harassment can be male-female, or female-male, or even same-sex harassment. A hostile work environment can also occur based on other factors than sex, such as race or religion.
A wrongful discharge can be based on any of the actions described above, such as discrimination or sexual harassment. In addition, an employee may be wrongfully terminated in a retaliatory discharge for exercising protected rights, such as reporting illegal activity or safety violations (whistleblowing), missing work for jury duty, engaging in protected concerted activity with a labor union, or filing a claim for workers' compensation or other disability benefits.
The attorneys at Cullar & McLeod, LLP represent employees, including corporate managers, who may be considering blowing the whistle on their company's potentially illegal or fraudulent activities, or who may be involved in an internal investigation after blowing the whistle on an employer. The laws protecting whistleblowers are complex and varied; however, our experienced attorneys can help potential whistleblowers understand what protections are offered and under what circumstances.
Wage and Overtime Claims
The Fair Labor Standards Act requires that all non-exempt employees who work more than 40 hours in the workweek be paid at least one and one-half times their regular rate of pay for the overtime hours worked. Employers sometimes attempt to evade overtime laws by calling certain workers "independent contractors" as opposed to employees. The choice of terminology, however, is irrelevant - an "independent contractor" is actually an employee and may be entitled to overtime if one or more of the following factors are present:
-The degree of control exercised by the employer over the worker, including the worker's hours, place and manner of work
-The worker's opportunity for profit and loss and the worker's investment into the business
-The worker's investment into tools and materials
-The degree of specialized skill and independent initiative required to perform the work
-The duration of the working relationship
-The extent to which the work is an integral part of the employer's business.