Former TABC Employee Claims She Was Fired For Whistleblowing

Wrongful termination claims, though fairly common, can sometimes be complex when it comes to determining their validity. This is because each situation is unique and often requires an experienced eye to see the varying details of the claims being disputed. This was the case for a former Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission (TABC) employee who filed a wrongful termination claim over a conflict of interest with her employer over whistleblowing claims.

Amy Harrison was let go from her position as director of licensing for the TABC after the media reported on out-of-state trips to conferences where officials partied and mingled with beverage industry representatives. Harrison wasn’t the only one who lost her job either – roughly half a dozen other agency executives were also let go during this time.

In a recent lawsuit, Harrison alleges she was pushed out of her position only after alerting TABC lawyers that former Army captain, Kevin Lilly, had personal stock holdings in companies the agency regulated. Soon after her concerns were raised, Harrison was told the agency was going in a “new direction” and was asked to resign. Being an employee since the early 1990’s, Harrison initially declined, but was soon forced out in retaliation for going outside the agency’s chain of command.

According to the lawsuit, Lilly alleges he had initially contacted Harrison to ask about potential conflicts he might have in his new role due to his personal stock holdings. After Harrison told him she was not the right person to determine this, Lilly still made the decision to send her and the agency’s general counsel a list of companies within his portfolio.

Harrison forwarded her concerns to the agency’s counsel, including the executive director at the time, Ed Swedberg, who also found potential conflicts. Soon after, Harrison alleges she was pressured to leave.

What Qualifies as Wrongful Termination?

Though many individuals terminated from their jobs might feel their termination was “wrongful,” especially if it was done without cause, the legal definition of wrongful termination is quite specific. In order to be wrongfully terminated, one must be fired for an illegal reason, which may involve a violation of federal anti-discrimination laws or a contractual breach. Under federal law, employers cannot fire an employee based on protected characteristics such as race, national origin, sex, pregnancy, religion, age, disability, and citizenship status.

In Texas, employment is “at-will,” meaning an employer can terminate an employee for any reason, no matter how arbitrary or irrational. Termination could occur at any time and for any legitimate purpose, making proving wrongful termination claims fairly difficult.

Houston Employment Law Attorneys

Employment disputes can have devastating effects on an organization’s reputation. Whether you are interested in preventing disputes or are currently faced with an employment law issue, the experienced employment attorneys at Feldman & Feldman can help. Contact us today to schedule a consultation to discuss your claim.

Google Ends Forced Arbitration For Employees

As one of the most prolific and important companies in the technology industry, Google’s actions are watched closely. Up until recently, Google (like many companies) was forcing arbitration agreements upon employees; the company recently decided to end this practice, giving rights back to its employees.

Arbitration agreements are a common occurrence in employment contracts. These force employees to resolve any lawsuits against the company in arbitration rather than in a public court. The main problem with arbitration? Since it is not a public process, the details of the lawsuit are kept secret. This secrecy helps protect companies from additional scrutiny, but can be extremely harmful to employees.

The practice of forced arbitration is facing a lot of criticism in the wake of the #MeToo movement. Because arbitration keeps matters of a lawsuit secret, companies can much better protect executives and both the individual’s reputation as well as the company’s image from criticism of the public at large. This in turn enables individuals who sexually harass other employees to continue their behavior without fear of repercussions. Last year, employees at Google were so fed up with the forced arbitration agreements they staged a walk out. The walk out gained national attention and put significant pressure on the tech giant. In response to growing pressure, Google announced its plans to get rid of arbitration agreements for all current and future employees. This will allow employees to settle any type of work dispute in a court if necessary.

Understanding Workers’ Rights

No one should be subject to discrimination or harassment in the workplace. Companies that use arbitration agreements are empowered to hide their wrongdoings in private arbitration proceedings, which take away workers’ voices. While Google has returned this power to employees, many companies still utilize arbitration agreements. Regardless of whether or not companies have arbitration agreements in place, workers still have rights and can seek compensation when these rights are violated.

Houston Employment Lawyers

At Feldman & Feldman, our attorneys have represented scores of victims who were subjected to discrimination and harassment in the workplace. If you are experiencing discrimination or harassment, don’t wait to contact us. We can help you understand your rights and legal options. Call us today to schedule an appointment with one of our Houston employment lawyers.

Southwest and Mechanic’s Union Nearing End of Six Year Long Negotiation Battle

It’s not uncommon for airlines to reschedule or cancel flights. For Southwest Airlines, however, some of the cancellation and rescheduled flights over the past six years stem from a dispute between the company and its Aircraft Mechanics Fraternal Association. The contentious fight between Southwest and its mechanic’s union appears to be nearing its end according to both parties who have reached a tentative agreement.

The long-running dispute arose out of a failure to agree on a labor contract. While it is not unusual for unions to have disputes over wages and compensation with companies, the Southwest dispute resulted in two lawsuits. The company sued the mechanic’s union alleging the mechanics were flagging minor maintenance issues that caused planes to be brought in unnecessarily for maintenance. These maintenance issues caused many planes to be grounded, resulting in cancelled and rescheduled flights. In turn, the mechanic’s union filed a lawsuit against the company and its Chief Operating Officer claiming defamation.

The dispute was causing serious concerns in the industry and eventually caught the attention of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). The FAA warned Southwest the contentious relationship between the company and its mechanics could undermine the company’s safety-management system. Feeling the heat from the FAA, both sides worked to reach a resolution. The tentative contract needs to be voted on by the mechanic’s union members, but if approved, the five-year contract would give the mechanics a 20% raise and $160 million in bonuses.

Representing Unions In Complex Disputes

Many people are unaware of how unions operate in the legal system and what rights both unions and their members are entitled to. Any legal dispute involving a union or other trade organization is very complex, and should only be handled by lawyers who have a track record of success in these matters. At Feldman & Feldman, our lawyers have successfully represented numerous unions, including firefighters unions and police unions.

If your union is encountering legal problems, do not hesitate to contact us. We can provide aggressive representation and innovative strategies to achieve a successful resolution. Contact us today to schedule an appointment with one of our attorneys.

Types of Employment Discrimination

Workplaces can be extremely tense environments. While these environments can be shaped into more positive atmospheres, tense work environments are usually the basis of employment litigation. Many people think employment discrimination is just discriminating based on the color of someone’s skin, but there are many types of employment discrimination that create hostile work environments, prevent growth of hardworking employees, and lead to extensive litigation.

Types of Employment Discrimination

Sadly, employment discrimination comes in many forms. The Texas Workforce Commission divides employment discrimination into nine different categories, including:

  • Age – Age discrimination can be against the very young or the very old. Regardless of someone’s age, they should be evaluated based on their skillset, not just a number.
  • Sex – Although women are commonly discriminated against because of their sex, anyone can be a victim of sexual harassment and/or discrimination.
  • Color – Workers are protected against discrimination based on the color of their skin during hiring, termination, promotion, compensation, or job training. Unfortunately, many employers violate this protection.
  • Race – While racial discrimination is similar to discrimination based on color, it provides additional protection against discrimination based on physical characteristics, cultural practices, and even medical conditions that predominately affect one race over others.
  • Nationality – Protection against nationality discrimination goes beyond where an individual was born; it also includes ancestry, culture, or linguistic characteristics common to a specific ethnic group.
  • Religion – Religious discrimination goes beyond intolerance of someone’s personal beliefs. This type of discrimination can include refusing to allow workers to observe religious holidays or refusing to accept an employee’s religious dress.
  • Disability – Many people with disabilities struggle to obtain jobs and pursue careers. Even when people with disabilities obtain work, their employers must make reasonable accommodations for them.
  • Emergency Evacuation – In times of natural disasters, people may need to evacuate their homes to safe locations. If this occurs, these workers are protected from termination and other types of employment discrimination.
  • Retaliation – Any employee that makes a complaint regarding discrimination is also protected from retaliation by his or her employer.

Employment Discrimination Attorneys

At Feldman & Feldman, we have helped many individuals and companies with employment discrimination matters. We understand that sometimes the best course of action isn’t in the courtroom, and our experienced negotiators can help bring a successful resolution without going to court. And, when the need arises, we can also aggressively fight for clients in civil trials and defend our victories on appeal.

If you believe you have been discriminated against, or if you are a business facing discrimination litigation, contact us today. We can explain your legal options and protect your best interests.

Five Ways To Prevent Employment Litigation

Running a business is no small feat. Whether you own a small mom and pop company or employ thousands of employees, you are going to face legal issues that can jeopardize your business. In addition to a wide variety of business litigation issues, companies can also face employment litigation. Employment litigation can be damaging in many ways. Not only can it be expensive, but it can also tarnish a company’s reputation and take a serious blow at the morale of current employees. However, there are many steps companies can take to prevent employment litigation.

Prevent Employment Litigation With These Five Strategies

Many businesses might be reluctant to spend time implementing employment litigation prevention strategies, but the reality is that without these strategies, they are opening themselves up to serious risk. These five tips can go a long way in preventing employment issues.

  1. Have written procedures for conduct. In light of the #MeToo movement, more victims of sexual harassment are empowered to share their experiences. Sexual harassment and discrimination of any kind have no place in the workplace. Companies should have written rules for conduct that not only forbids discriminatory behavior, but also provides consequences for employees that do discriminate against others. Companies should also have written procedures for clock-in and clock-out requirements and overtime regulations.
  2. Provide adequate training. There are numerous types of training that can help maintain a safe workplace. Things like safety training, sexual harassment and discrimination training, and wage and hour regulation training will go a long way toward preventing future litigation. While most companies only offer training to managers, a company can greatly benefit from offering this to every employee.
  3. Provide a method for employees to submit complaints. Employees should have an avenue to submit information about complaints, harassment, or violations so they can be resolved as quickly as possible. Some employees like to submit complaints anonymously, so employers should create a system that allows for anonymity.
  4. Establish dispute resolution procedures. Preparation is key to handling employment disputes. By defining processes before they are needed, companies can clear a pathway to resolution.
  5. Don’t wait to contact an attorney. No matter is too small for an attorney. If an employee submits a complaint, an attorney can help resolve the issue efficiently.

Employment Litigation Help

The employment litigation lawyers of Feldman & Feldman are experienced in working with businesses of all sizes. We can institute preventative measures or represent you if an issue has already occurred. Contact us today to schedule an appointment to discuss your situation.