Labor laws in Texas are a combination of laws made by the federal government (which have to be upheld in every state) and laws made on a state level. These can sometimes amount to the same thing, but there are subtle differences.
The main key fact that HR should know is that Texas is an at-will state. This means that the employer or the employee may terminate the employment agreement at any time, with or without notice, and with or without cause.
The specifics of the labor laws in Texas are the main focus of this article, as well as some key points about how HR departments can ensure compliance. There is also some discussion about the enforcement of the labor laws in Texas, as well as an idea of the penalties that employers may face if they do not meet their legal obligations.
Minimum wage laws in Texas
There are no specific minimum wage laws in Texas; the state follows the recommendations set by the federal government.
This means non-exempt employees must be paid not less than $7.25 per hour.
Tipped employees (in the service industry, for example) are expected to make at least the minimum wage including tips, and they must be paid no less than $2.13 per hour.
The Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) is the agency responsible for employment in Texas. Any worker who is not being paid appropriately is able to make a claim to the TWC, who will investigate if necessary.
Employers who do not meet the minimum wage requirements could have a lawsuit filed against them to recover unpaid wages as well as damages and costs.
Overtime laws in Texas
The standard full-time working week in Texas is considered to be 40 hours, and any non-exempt worker must be paid at least 1.5x their regular pay rate for all hours worked past 40 in a normal working week. This is based on federal law, as there are no specific state laws about overtime.
Exempt from this legislation is any person in an administrative, executive, or professional role that is paid at least $684 per week ($35,568 a year).
Discrimination and harassment laws in Texas
According to federal law, employers and employees cannot discriminate against others based on certain protected characteristics. This means that employment cannot be denied and employees need to be protected in relation to the following:
Family Medical History
Physical or Mental Disability
Child or Spousal Support Withholding
Military or Veteran Status
In addition to this, Texas state law also prohibits discrimination based on expunged criminal records.
Employers must protect their employees from harassment based on these protected categories as well as any form of sexual harassment. This includes everything from offensive jokes or comments through to inappropriate touching or worse.
If the employer has been made aware of harassment, and has failed to prevent it or correct it, then the employee can make a complaint to the TWC who will investigate. This can lead to both monetary and non-monetary relief for the employee, although they may also file a civil suit.
It is worth noting that employees who have brought any impropriety to an employer or caused an investigation are also protected from any form of retaliation discrimination.
Leave laws in Texas
The Family and Medical Leave Act is the federal law that governs leave in Texas, and this means that employees may take up to 12 weeks of leave, unpaid, per year for specific family and medical-related issues.
Texas does not have any requirement for employers to provide specific sick leave, or bereavement leave. They also do not have to provide any specific amount of vacation time.
There are certain conditions where leave must be granted, with no adverse consequences - whether paid or unpaid. These include:
Time off to vote (if there are not two hours available outside of work for the employee to vote).
Responding to an emergency evacuation order
Military leave (training or deployment)
Witness in court proceedings
Private employers have discretion on what leave they provide, and whether it will be paid or unpaid - this should be written into the employment contract and adhered to.
Violations can be reported to TWC, with an investigation to follow.
Health and safety laws in Texas
Health and safety in the workplace is governed by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, a federal body that ensures safe and healthy working conditions for all employees across the US.
OSHA is responsible for setting and enforcing standards of safety across many different areas of employment. They provide training and education as well as outreach and assistance for employers who deal with risks such as:
Chemical and Dust
Employers are responsible for meeting OSHA standards for the safety of the workplace, and any infringements are to be reported to them for investigation.
Enforcement of labor laws in Texas
The Texas Workforce Commission is an agency that is wholly responsible for all facets of employment and employment law in the state of Texas.
As a state agency, they oversee the workforce, helping to develop fairer employment systems and ensuring that workers are afforded the necessary protection that they need.
The TWC provides statutory support for employers and employees. It deals with complaints from employees about working conditions, discrimination, harassment, and pay issues, and it investigates these complaints.
If found to be in breach of the laws, the TWC will apply administrative penalties.
The TWC is also responsible for providing workforce development programs, as well as administering both Unemployment Benefits and Unemployment Tax Programs.
Best practices for compliance with labor laws in Texas
HR departments that are looking to remain compliant with labor laws in Texas should ensure that their policies are drawn up with the legal requirements in mind - this will be a good starting point.
Following this, one of the best ways to remain compliant is to ensure that records are kept properly - certain documents need to be kept for certain amounts of time. Below is a non-exhaustive list.
Payroll records, employment contracts, sales records, and I-9 forms should be held for at least three years, and the I-9 should also be kept for at least one year after the employee leaves.
Timecards and wage rate tables, as well as deductions from wages must be kept for two years.
All employment records should be kept for at least one year after termination of employment.
Good HR software will help you keep all your digital files in the same place, and ensure that you are keeping hold of everything you need to maintain compliance with Texas labor laws.
Texas labor laws are mainly just extensions of the federal laws regarding employers and employees, and it is worth noting that many of the regulations are only relevant for private employers who have more than 15 employees.
Despite being an at-will state, the workforce in Texas is well-supported by the Texas Workforce Commission, and knowing the law will help the HR department of the business to avoid any punitive actions.
Other useful resources labor laws resources:
June 27, 2023
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