One Employee Triggers Many Laws

For small business owners, hiring a first employee is a very important step. The employer must comply with a range of laws as soon as that first employee comes on board. 

Be Aware of Reporting Requirements

An employer's first obligation is to comply with Texas and federal reporting laws. The new hire will need to fill out an I-9 form. Businesses must report new employees to state and federal agencies within twenty (20) days of the start of employment.

Federal Laws Protect Employees

Several important federal laws protect employees where a business has one or more employees. The Federal Labor Standards Act (FLSA) sets out the minimum wage and overtime laws we are all accustomed to in the U.S. The Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) protects the health and safety of workers. Businesses must comply with these laws as soon as they hire their first employee. Other important federal statutes, including Title VII and the Family Medical Leave Act, only restrict businesses with more people on the payroll.

Some Texas Employment Laws Also Apply

Several state-level protections are triggered by the first hiring. The Texas Payday Act governs how and when employees get paid. It spells out state requirements for minimum wage, overtime pay, timely wages, and illegal deductions. Employers must also comply with the Unemployment Compensation Act. Even employees who work for an employer for as little as a single day may be eligible for unemployment benefits through that employer.

There Are Workplace Posting Requirements

Employers must provide workers with information regarding their rights by posting various types of information in a visible location within the workplace. They must provide or post informational materials about Workers' Compensation, the FLSA, OSHA, the Texas Payday Act, and other laws. Many of these posters are available for free through agency websites.

Ongoing Compliance Is Key

For employers with one or more employees, it is important to check and update their informational posters periodically. The Texas Workforce Commission website is a great resource for this purpose. They should also review whether they are in full compliance with all relevant employment laws. An experienced employment law attorney is in the best position to evaluate and advise on compliance issues.  

The Texas Whistleblower Act Protects Government Employees

When a public employee discovers illegal activity in their job, they have an ethical (if not a legal) duty to report it to somebody who can do something about it.  The Texas legislature enacted the Texas Whistleblower Act in 1983 to protect these employees from retaliation for making such a report.  

In order to recover under the Act, a plaintiff must show: (1) she is a public employee; (2) she acted in good faith in making a report; (3) the report involved a violation of law by an agency or employees; (4) the report was made to an appropriate law enofrcement authority; and (5) she suffered retaliation.  Tex. Gov't Code § 554.002.  Section 554.022(b) further clarifies that an “appropriate law enforcement authority” is a government official or entity that "an employee in good faith believes is authorized to regulate under or enforce the law alleged to be violated in the report or to investigate or prosecute a violation of the criminal law."  

Yesterday I was interviewed about a Whistleblower lawsuit with claims arising under the Texas Whistleblower Act, Texas common law, and the First and Fourteenth Amendments.