Labor laws spell out the rights and responsibilities of workers and specify how they should relate with their employers. Having defined labor laws, how familiar would you say you are with them? One thing to remember is that different states have different labor laws. However, there are labor laws you would expect in the whole of the United States, e.g., those that address discrimination in the workplace. Few Americans know their state’s labor laws, either due to ignorance or disinterest. To be fair, most of them do not even know what the Bill of Rights entails, so asking them about the labor laws would be pointless. According to Study Finds, a study done in 2019 revealed that 20% of Americans weren’t familiar with the Bill of Rights. Knowing your state’s labor laws is important since they protect you at your workplace. It is not a matter of reporting to work for the money. For our case study, we will focus on Texas labor laws. Hopefully, by reading the state’s laws, you will use them to defend your rights and your colleagues’.
1. Child Labor Laws
Before we describe their laws, we need to know who a child is. According to the United Nations, a child is anyone who is below the age of 18 years. So to play it safe, most employers hire people who are at least 18 years old. However, in Texas, the minimum working age is 14, so technically, you can hire a child who is 16 years old. However, there are instances when children below 14 years old may work. Here are some cases when they are allowed to work:
- When the child is delivering newspapers to customers
- When the child is participating in a school-administered work-study program under the approval of the Texas Workforce Commission
- When the child works as part of a rehabilitation program under the supervision of a county judge
- When the child works for an enterprise owned by the parent or custodian
- When the child only does non-hazardous tasks such as loading and unloading trucks, handling irrigation pipes, placing vegetables or fruits on conveyors, cleaning barns, etc.
- When the child is involved in agriculture at a time they are not required in school
Certification of Age
Any child above 14 years old may submit an application to the Texas Workforce Commission for a certification of age copy. The certification of age indicates the child’s date of birth. Most employers would want this document since they wouldn’t want to unknowingly violate a child’s labor laws if it turned out they were younger than 14 years.
- For a child to receive the certification of age, they need to submit:
- A filled form issued by the Texas Workforce Commission
- Proof of age, e.g., birth certificate, baptismal certificate, school-census record, or passport
- A recent photograph showing a full headshot of the child
2. Wage Payment
Frequency of Payment
In the case of non-exempt employees, employers should pay them twice a month. For the wages paid twice a month, the employer must ensure that each pay period has the same number of days. An employer also must designate paydays. According to OSYB, Friday is the most common payday, whether an employee pays monthly or semi-monthly. So, if you cannot pick a day, you could play it safe by paying on Fridays. If an employer does not designate any paydays, they will have to pay workers on the 1st and 15th of every month.
Some companies are inflexible when it comes to delivering your payment. For instance, they may insist on paying you cash, yet you want to be paid in checks. A company should be able to pay you by cash, check, payroll card, and direct deposit. As for the delivery method, there is no defined way how they should do it. For instance, the employer may deliver the wage to an employee at their desk during working hours or send their wage through registered mail.
Payment Upon Separation from Work
There are many reasons why a worker may get fired or retrenched. Regardless of the reason for the job dismissal, the worker must get compensated for the days worked until their dismissal. According to the TX Labor Code 61.014 statute, the worker should be paid within six days after the date of dismissal. Also, a worker may quit due to a certain labor dispute. In this scenario, the employer should pay the worker no later than the next scheduled payday. Lastly, a worker may also quit due to wage disputes. Unfortunately, there is no Texan law that compels an employer to pay a worker in the event of wage disputes. At the moment, you may have to agree with the employer’s terms or try your best to negotiate for your preferred wage.
Deduction of Wages
It is frustrating for an employer to reduce your wages gradually. To make matters worse, they may not deem it necessary to tell you the reason for doing so. An employer is not allowed to deduct your salary willy-nilly unless in the following instances:
- They get authorization from the state or federal law
- A court of competent jurisdiction orders them
- They get written authorization from the employee to deduct their wages
There are instances when a worker may accidentally destroy office property. Predictably, the employer would deduct part of the employee’s salary to cover the cost of replacing the destroyed item. However, an employer should not be too hasty to deduct their wage. If there is no written authorization from the worker, you cannot deduct their pay. Instead, you can ask the worker what they could do about the property they have destroyed. If the worker is a decent person, they will instantly offer to replace the item.
3. Leave Laws
In Texas, a worker seeking vacation leave is not entitled to any vacation benefits. So, the choice to offer the benefits rests with the employer. If an employer decides to give the worker any benefits, they should be in line with the company’s policy or employment contract terms. You may work for a company that offers accrued leaves. An accrued leave is the amount of leave time an employee has earned as per the company’s policy but is yet to be paid or used. A company is permitted to establish a policy whereby a worker loses their accrued leave if they get dismissed from work. However, some companies may have a policy whereby they pay your accrued leave, so it depends on your employer. Also, some companies offer leaves on a use-it-or-lose-it basis. As you may have guessed, an employer may deny a worker a vacation leave if they did not go on the date they were supposed to. In such a case, the worker may have to use it the following year. Therefore, Texas laws do not dictate the nature of leaves, so a company is allowed to use its preferred leave system.
Texas laws do not compel an employer to offer holiday leaves to their workers, whether paid or unpaid. So, if a company wants you to work during the holidays, you have no option but to comply. However, you should work during the holiday if it is stipulated in your contract. Companies that offer holiday leaves should ensure that their policy or employer contract allows for them.
Some employers are apolitical, so they can’t be bothered about the person that becomes their president. There is nothing wrong with being apolitical unless your stance hinders workers somehow. Some employers discourage their workers from voting because they deem it a waste of time. Consequently, they may deny a worker a voting leave. Legally, an employer must provide a worker some time off to vote. Any employer who refuses to grant their workers a voting leave or threatens them for participating in the polls will be guilty of committing a Class C misdemeanor. According to Shouse Law, you have to pay a $500 fine for the offense, but there is no jail term for it.
Jury Duty Leave
Just like the voting leave, no employer should intimidate an employee who intends to go for jury duty. Therefore, the employer should grant the worker the leave. However, the employer is not required to pay an employee for the time spent on jury duty.
4. Hours Worked
The minimum wage for Texan workers is $7.25 per hour. According to Texas labor laws, minimum wage workers must be paid for all the hours worked. So, to maximize their payment, the worker may choose to work each hour without any rest. However, there are cases when a worker may not work for a full hour. So, would they still get paid? Here are instances when they may not work and the laws’ positions on such instances.
It refers to a period when workers are not working because they are waiting for tasks from their employers. For instance, you could wait for only 15 minutes or an hour before any task reaches you. Regardless of the time spent waiting, the worker will be paid according to the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). The act stipulates that minimum wage workers should only be paid for hours worked. Since Texas laws are silent on this matter, they will be paid based on the FLSA.
On-call time refers to a period when workers have to remain at a particular station as they wait for a call from the employer to report to work. The worker could either be at home or somewhere in the office. An employer may use two types of on-call time methods: on-call conditions and non-restricted conditions. Under on-call conditions, you have to wait in the office, but for non-restricted conditions, you have time to do your things as you wait for the work call. Texas laws do not dictate whether workers should be paid during their on-call time. Therefore, the FLSA standards apply.
Meeting, Lecture, and Training Time
Sometimes, an employer may ask a worker to train new workers. That means they will have to abandon their work and attend to the new workers. Generally, such meetings take long. That is because you will be explaining everything about the company to the workers. So, you could spend at least an hour. Like the previous instances, there is no law dictating whether or not a worker should be paid while they are in a meeting. However, going by FLSA standards, there are instances when you will be paid while you are in a meeting.
Typically, most people work from Monday to Friday. However, a company may decide to begin their workweek on Sunday, which is still okay. The only requirement is that workers should work a total of 40 hours regardless of the working days a company chooses. However, a company may alter the workweek as long as it is not an attempt to avoid paying workers overtime. So, if a worker works less than 40 hours, they will not be entitled to overtime.
Most workers like to go to work and not worry about their labor rights. As long as they get paid, they will not worry too much about their mistreatment. So, if you are a Texan worker, it is time you familiarize yourself with your state’s laws. You shouldn’t just be satisfied with being paid. Although being paid is essential, there are other rights you are entitled to. Also, the laws exist so that you do not embarrass yourself. Imagine the shame of suing an employer only to realize that they acted legally. So, these laws are important for both the employee and employer. Traditionally, people do not make an effort to understand labor laws since they feel it is the lawyer’s responsibility. You would be wrong if you think that only they should study the laws.