If you're an employer or employee in the Lone Star State, you must be aware of the various state and federal laws regulating employment practices. Texas is known for its business-friendly environment, but that doesn't mean employers can disregard labor laws.
Texas has seen its fair share of labor law violations and notable cases in recent years. For example, in 2022, the U.S. Department of Labor recovered over $1 million in back wages for home healthcare workers in Texas. Additionally, the state has seen high-profile cases such as the 2019 settlement between the University of Texas at Austin and a former women’s track coach who alleged sex discrimination and retaliation.
Whether you're an employer or employee, understanding Texas employment and labor laws is crucial for compliance and protection. This page includes some of the most important laws and regulations to keep in mind and a list of legal resources to help you file a claim, secure legal representation, and understand your rights in the future.
Texas Minimum Wage Law
The minimum wage in Texas is $7.25 per hour, the same as the federal minimum wage. Therefore, Texas employers must pay their employees at least $7.25 per hour unless the employee is exempt from minimum wage requirements under the law.
Some cities and counties in Texas have set their own minimum wage rates higher than the state and federal minimum wage. For example, as of October 2021, the minimum wage in Austin is $15.00 per hour for employers with 26 or more employees and $13.50 per hour for employers with 25 or more employees. This may apply to other areas in Texas as well.
Texas Overtime Pay Law
Under Texas law, non-exempt employees are entitled to overtime pay of 1.5 times their regular pay rate for all hours worked over 40 in a workweek. Therefore, employees working more than 40 hours in a workweek must be paid overtime for each additional hour.
For example, if an employee earns $10 per hour and works 45 hours in a workweek, they would be entitled to overtime pay of $15 per hour for the five hours worked over 40. This would total $550 for the week ($400 for the first 40 hours worked, plus $75 for the five hours of overtime).
It’s important to note that Texas law does not require employers to pay overtime for hours worked on weekends, holidays, or regular days off. Overtime pay is only required for hours worked over 40 hours in a workweek.
Texas Workplace Discrimination Laws
Texas has two primary anti-discrimination laws prohibiting workplace discrimination: the Texas Labor Code and the Texas Commission on Human Rights Act (TCHRA).
Under these laws, it is illegal for employers to discriminate against employees or job applicants based on their race, religion, sex, national origin, age, disability, or genetic information. Employers are also prohibited from retaliating against employees complaining about discrimination or participating in a discrimination investigation or lawsuit.
Discrimination can take many forms, including failure to hire, wrongful termination, demotion, denial of benefits, and harassment. Harassment can include verbal or physical conduct that is unwelcome and based on protected characteristics, such as race or sex. Employers have a legal obligation to investigate and address harassment complaints.
Texas Workers’ Compensation Law
Under the Texas Workers’ Compensation Act, employers must provide workers' compensation insurance to their employees, either by purchasing a policy from a private insurance company or by self-insuring. Employees covered by workers' compensation are entitled to certain benefits if they are injured or become ill on the job. The injury or illness must have occurred in the course and scope of the employee's employment, meaning that it must have happened while the employee was performing work-related duties.
The benefits available under Texas's workers' compensation system include the following:
Medical benefits to cover the cost of medical treatment and care related to a work-related injury or illness
Income benefits dependent on the severity of the injury and the employee’s average weekly wage
Death benefits for the employee's dependents in case the employee dies as a result of a work-related injury or illness
Texas Child Labor Laws
Texas has a set of laws that govern the employment of minors or individuals who are under the age of 18. These laws protect young workers' health, safety, and educational opportunities.
Under Texas law, minors are prohibited from working in certain hazardous occupations, such as operating heavy machinery or working with explosives. Minors are also prohibited from working in specific industries, such as adult entertainment or jobs that involve selling or serving alcohol.
In addition, Texas law sets certain restrictions on the hours and times of day that minors can work, depending on their age and whether or not school is in session. For example:
Minors under 14 are generally not allowed to work, except in certain limited circumstances, such as delivering newspapers or working for a parent's business.
Minors who are 14 and 15 years old may work outside of school hours in non-hazardous jobs, but they are limited to working no more than eight hours a day and 48 hours a week during the summer and no more than three hours a day and 18 hours a week during the school year.
Minors who are 16 and 17 years old may work non-hazardous jobs for unlimited hours outside of school, but they are still prohibited from working in hazardous occupations.
Employers are required to obtain work permits for minors who are under the age of 18 and who are working during school hours. Work permits are generally issued by the school district where the minor attends school.
Texas Family and Medical Leave Law
Many employers in Texas are covered by the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), which provides certain employees with up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave in 12 months for specific family and medical reasons.
Under the FMLA, eligible employees are entitled to take leave for:
The birth, adoption, or foster care placement of a child;
To care for a spouse, child, or parent with a serious health condition;
Recovering from their own serious health condition that makes them unable to perform the essential functions of their job.
To be eligible for FMLA leave, an employee must have worked for the employer for at least 12 months, have worked at least 1,250 hours during the 12 months before the start of the leave, and work at a location where the employer has at least 50 employees within 75 miles.
During the leave period, the employer must maintain the employee’s health benefits as if the employee were still working. Upon return from leave, the employer must also restore the employee to the same or an equivalent position with the same pay, benefits, and other terms and conditions of employment.
What Are the Penalties for Unlawful Termination in Texas?
The penalties for unlawful termination in Texas vary depending on the specific circumstances and the violated laws.
In many cases, such as discrimination or retaliation, the employer may be required to pay back wages, reinstate the employee, or pay damages. In other situations, like a breach of contract, the employer may be entitled to pay damages that apply to that specific situation.
It is important to note that employment laws can be complex, and the penalties can vary depending on the specific circumstances. Therefore, consult an employment law attorney or contact the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) or the Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) for guidance if you believe you have been unlawfully terminated.
How Much Can Someone Sue an Employer For in Texas?
The amount that someone can sue an employer for in Texas will depend on the case's specific circumstances. Different types of claims can be brought against an employer, and every kind of claim may have different limits on the amount of damages that can be awarded.
For example, in a discrimination case under federal law, such as Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, a cap on compensatory and punitive damages can be awarded based on the employer's size.
Number of Employees
Federally Mandated Cap on Compensatory and Punitive Damages
There is no cap on the amount of back or front pay that can be awarded.
In other types of cases, such as breach of contract or violation of wage and hour laws, the amount of damages that can be awarded will depend on the specific circumstances of the case. In general, damages may include back pay, front pay, lost benefits, and other expenses incurred due to the employer's actions.
The Statute of Limitations in Texas
The statute of limitations for labor law violations in Texas varies depending on the type of violation. Here are some examples:
Type of Violation
Statute of Limitations
Wage and Hour Violations
Breach of Contract
The statute of limitations for discrimination or retaliation violations may be extended in certain circumstances, such as if the conduct was ongoing or if the employer fraudulently concealed the conduct from the employee. In addition, if the employee was a minor at the time of the discriminatory or retaliatory conduct, the statute of limitations may be extended until the employee reaches the age of 18.
Lastly, if an employee files a charge of discrimination or retaliation with an administrative agency, such as the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) or the Texas Workforce Commission (TWC), the statute of limitations may be extended by up to 300 days after the charge is filed.
Resources for Employees in Texas
If you are a Texas employee who has experienced a labor law violation or is going through a resulting lawsuit, several legal resources are available to help you. These resources can help you file a claim, provide legal advice and representation, and offer educational materials on labor law protections.
Texas Workforce Commission
The Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) is the state agency responsible for enforcing labor laws in Texas. Employees who believe their employer has violated wage and hour laws, such as failing to pay minimum wage or overtime, can file a complaint with the TWC online, by mail, or by phone. The TWC will investigate the complaint to determine if there has been a law violation.
In addition, the TWC offers mediation services, legal resources, and education to employers and employees on labor laws, including minimum wage, overtime, and discrimination. The agency provides training and resources to help employers understand their obligations under the law and to help employees understand their rights.
Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is a federal agency that enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination, such as Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act.
Employees who believe they have been victims of discrimination or harassment in the workplace can file a claim with the EEOC, which will investigate the claim and determine if there is evidence of a federal law violation. The EEOC also offers mediation services, legal resources, and assistance with filing claims.
Texas RioGrande Legal Aid
Texas RioGrande Legal Aid (TRLA) is a nonprofit organization that provides legal assistance to low-income individuals and communities in Texas. They have a team of experienced attorneys who specialize in labor law and are dedicated to helping individuals who have experienced labor law violations.
TRLA attorneys can advise individuals who believe they have experienced a labor law violation. They can represent individuals in related lawsuits, such as wage theft, discrimination, and harassment. TRLA attorneys can facilitate mediation and settlement negotiations to help individuals settle without having to experience a lengthy and costly court process.
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