There are several misconceptions about Texas employment law that are held by both employers and workers. Many of these misunderstandings come from the differences between Texas laws and other states’ laws. Over the next few blogs I will introduce some of the most common legends and briefly outline the current Texas and federal laws relating to employment.
The Legend: There is a Labor Board that investigates employee complaints about incivility and poor behavior by employers.
The Facts: There are many governmental agencies that regulate employment law, such as, the U.S. Department of Labor, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the Occupational Health and Safety Administration, and the Texas Workforce Commission. While each of these agencies regulate separate and specific areas of employment law, none of them will intervene solely on the basis that an employer was rude or ill-mannered towards its employees. In addition, no state or federal agency is widely referred to as the “Labor Board.” Employees who claim to have spoken with their local labor board generally do not know which agency they talked to, and in some cases, have not spoken to any agency at all.
The Legend: The law requires rest and meal breaks.
The Facts: No Texas or federal law requires rest or meal breaks for the vast majority of Texas employees. Some other states do have such requirements; for example, California requires that the employer provide at least a 30-minute meal break after every five consecutive hours of work, unless the work shift will be completed within six hours or less. Illinois requires a 20-minute meal break after 5 hours for employees who are to work 7 ½ continuous hours or more. In total, twenty-one states require a meal break, and seven require separate rest periods. However, the majority of states are similar to Texas and do not mandate these breaks.
Even in Texas, some occupation-specific exceptions apply. For example, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration imposes restrictions on the number of hours that long-haul truck drivers may work. Similarly, the Federal Aviation Administration limits the hours of air traffic controllers, and the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services limits the number of hours that child care workers may spend providing direct child care each day.
The Legend: The law requires employers to provide additional compensation for working on holidays.
The Facts: No Texas or federal law requires employers to provide additional compensation merely for working on a holiday. Employers who enter into an agreement with their workers to provide such compensation may be bound to that agreement, and if that agreement is in writing, the Texas Workforce Commission has the authority to enforce it. In addition, if the hours worked put a non-exempt worker into overtime, those hours have to be compensated at the overtime rate.
Challenging urban legends, especially in the area of employment law, can help prevent some awkward situations for both the employee and employer. As cliché as it may be, “knowledge is power.” Join us again next week as we examine several more misconceptions empowering us with the truth; making us a stronger workforce.
Lisa Bogany is a Senior Business Consultant for Workforce Solutions in the Houston metropolitan area. She has over five years of experience in workforce development, primarily working with employers, and over 10 years experience in small business entrepreneurship.