Texas Businesses Across the State Face Fines for Failing to Comply With Newly-Issued Face Covering Mandates

As Texas has gradually reopened, the number of COVID-19 cases and associated hospitalizations has dramatically increased. In response to local conditions, Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff recently issued Executive Order NW-10, under which all businesses operating in the county must adopt a health and safety policy that requires both employees and customers to wear face coverings.

Austin and San Antonio-Area Businesses Now Required to Adopt Plans Mandating Face Coverings, But Fines May Be Imposed in San Antonio

On June 17, 2020, Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff issued Executive Order NW-10, requiring all businesses operating in the county, which includes San Antonio, to implement a health and safety policy to include the mandated use of face coverings by employees and customers when social distancing of at least six feet is not possible.

Reopening Texas: Governor Abbott Expands the List of Covered Services

On May 26, 2020, Governor Greg Abbott issued a proclamation expanding the list of “Covered Services” permitted to reopen in Texas. The proclamation is consistent with Executive Order GA-23, which “continu[es] through June 3, 2020, subject to extension based on the status of COVID-19 in Texas and the recommendations of the Governor’s Strike Force to Open Texas, the White House Coronavirus Task Force and the [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention].”

Reopening Texas: Governor Abbott Issues Phase II Executive Order

On May 18, 2020, Governor Greg Abbott issued Executive Order GA-23 as part of his three-phase plan to reopen the economy in Texas. The three-phase plan is outlined in a report entitled “Texans Helping Texans: The Governor’s Report to Open Texas.” Executive Order GA-23 is Phase II of the plan and follows Executive Order GA-18 (issued April 27, 2020) and Executive Order GA-21 (issued May 5, 2020). Executive Order GA-23 “continu[es] through June 3, 2020, subject to extension based on the status of COVID-19 in Texas and the recommendations of the Governor’s Strike Force to Open Texas, the White House Coronavirus Task Force and the [U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] CDC.”

Texas Workforce Commission Provides Form for Employers to Report Employee Reemployment Offer Refusals

On April 30, 2020, the Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) issued guidance identifying the circumstances in which an employee may remain eligible for the receipt of unemployment benefits despite the employee’s refusal of an offer to return to work. These circumstances included, for example, an individual being considered high risk due to his or her age (65 or older) or being diagnosed with COVID-19 and not having recovered.

Reopening Texas: Governor Abbott Issues Executive Orders

Texas has joined the growing number of states that have begun to reopen businesses following weeks of closure due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Governor Greg Abbott rolled out a three-phase plan to reopen the economy in conjunction with a report entitled “Texas Helping Texans: The Governor’s Report to Open Texas.” Additionally, over the last few days, Governor Abbott issued a series of executive orders regarding phase two of the plan.

Texas Workforce Commission Issues Guidance on Unemployment Claims of Individuals Who Refuse to Return to Work

As Texas begins to reopen, some employers are recalling employees placed on temporary leaves of absence or furloughs due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Invariably, a number of employees will ignore recall attempts or refuse offers to return to work. Depending upon the reason for refusal, these employees may remain eligible for the receipt of unemployment benefits, according to guidance issued by the Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) on April 30, 2020.

Judge Issues Temporary Injunction Blocking Implementation of San Antonio’s Sick and Safety Leave Law

The City of San Antonio’s Sick and Safe Leave ordinance has been enjoined. The ordinance was originally scheduled to go into effect on August 1, 2019, but on July 24, 2019, a Texas state court delayed implementation until December 1, 2019, pending a ruling on a motion for temporary injunction filed by business groups and the state.

San Antonio Paid Sick Leave Ordinance Delayed

On July 24, 2019, a Bexar County district court judge entered an order delaying the implementation of the San Antonio paid sick leave (PSL) ordinance from its current August 1, 2019 date to December 1, 2019. The order represented a compromise between the City of San Antonio and a coalition of San Antonio business groups that filed suit against the city on July 15.

Texas Legislative Roundup: New Laws Impacting Employers

The Texas Legislature’s 86th session adjourned on May 27, 2019, and there is little likelihood that the governor will call a special session. The legislature primarily focused on educational reforms this year. Regarding employment matters, most observers expected the legislature to adopt laws preempting any attempt by municipalities to pass paid sick leave laws. While the legislature failed to pass any such law, they did pass other laws impacting the employer-employee relationship.

Paid Sick Leave in San Antonio and Dallas: Answers to Your Frequently Asked Questions

Despite broad-based support, the Texas Legislature failed to pass a law preempting the type of paid sick leave ordinances enacted in Austin, San Antonio, and most recently Dallas before the end of its regular session on May 27, 2019. While a Texas court of appeal enjoined implementation of Austin’s paid sick leave ordinance and later ruled it unconstitutional, no litigation has been filed concerning the San Antonio and Dallas ordinances. Accordingly, companies with employees in San Antonio and Dallas may want to review their current policies to ensure compliance with these ordinances, both of which will take effect for most employers on August 1, 2019.

Texas Workforce Commission Issues Proposed Rules Excluding Certain Gig Workers From the Definition of “Employment” Under Texas Unemployment Laws

The issue of whether workers who utilize online digital platforms to obtain business and deliver services to third parties are employees or independent contractors has already been subject to much debate and litigation. In the growing gig economy, questions surrounding these issues can create uncertainty for both businesses and gig workers.

Fifth Circuit Upholds Jury Verdict in Constructive Discharge Case due to Employer’s “Shifting Reasons” for Its Personnel Decisions

In Delaronde v. Legend Classic Homes, Ltd., No. 17-20027 (January 18, 2018), the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed a district court’s denial of an employer’s post-verdict motion for judgment as a matter of law, finding that the jury had been presented with sufficient evidence to conclude that sex discrimination had motivated the transfer of a female sales associate for a Houston-area home builder from a successful community where she had achieved more than $3 million in sales to a very challenging community where the home prices were the lowest of any of the builder’s properties.

Texas Court Finds Overtime Restrictions Could Be a Materially Adverse Employment Action in FLSA Retaliation Claim

The Texas Court of Appeals for the Fourteenth District recently reversed and remanded a judgment in favor of an employer on an employee’s claim of retaliation under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). The court found there to be a genuine issue of material fact as to whether a change in the employer’s stated overtime policy, which was implemented after the employee filed an overtime lawsuit against the employer and applied only to that specific employee, constituted a materially adverse employment action.

Poor Policy Publication Revives Sexual Harassment Suit in the Fifth Circuit

Maintaining a company anti-harassment policy on a bulletin board and website is not enough to avoid liability for sexual discrimination according to a recent decision. On July 20, 2016, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals revived a sexual harassment lawsuit filed by a school board’s clerical employee who alleged inappropriate comments and touching from a manager. While the board’s policy manual contained reasonable policy and complaint procedures to prevent harassment, the court found evidence the board made insufficient efforts to train the alleged harasser and other employees about such policies. This case clarifies the scope of an important affirmative defense for employers and demonstrates the importance of clearly explaining policies to employees.

Federal Contractor Alert From the 5th Circuit: Disability Plaintiffs Need Not Be Employees

In a case of first impression, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals held that Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 permits employment discrimination suits by independent government contractors. In Flynn v. Distinctive Home Care, Inc., the court held that unlike the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the Rehabilitation Act did not require that the defendant be the plaintiff’s “employer.”

Texas Supreme Court Vindicates Employer That Uniformly Enforced its Leave Policy

On December 4, 2015, the Texas Supreme Court vacated a jury verdict in favor of a former employee who had alleged workers’ compensation retaliation, rendering judgment in favor of the employer and finding that the employee had not presented evidence that his termination had resulted from anything other than the uniform enforcement of a neutral absence control policy.

Fifth Circuit Reverses Summary Judgment in Favor of Franchisor Not Named in Charge of Discrimination

As a general rule, a party who has not been named in a charge filed with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) may not be sued under Title VII. For some employees, complying with this general rule may be easy. With the growing complexity of corporate ownership structures, however, an employee may misidentify his or her employer in filing a charge.

New Texas Trade Secret Law Takes Effect September 1

The Texas Uniform Trade Secrets Act (TUTSA or the Act) takes effect on September 1, 2013, and will apply to the theft of trade secrets occurring on or after that date. While trade secrets have long received protection under Texas common law, TUTSA will provide companies with additional safeguards and will expand the available legal remedies to address actual and anticipated harm.