Aug 31, 2021 | 12:00 PM CT

In this presentation, we will discuss legal risks and best practices to mitigate the same associated with returning to in-office work amidst the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. More specifically, we will analyze potential pitfalls, requirements, and considerations for employers under the Occupational Safety and Health Administration regulations, Americans with

Houston’s Fourteenth Court of Appeals recently held that a claim for attorney’s fees under the Uniform Declaratory Judgments Act (“UDJA”) is not preempted by the Texas Covenants Not to Compete Act where the action brought under the UDJA seeks to declare a covenant not to compete unenforceable.

In Traina v. Hargrove & Associates Inc. a former employee filed suit against his former employer seeking a declaratory judgment that a covenant not to compete he entered into with his employer is unenforceable.  The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of the employer that the employment agreement was enforceable, reformed the covenant to limit the scope of restrictions, and declined to award attorney’s fees under the UDJA.  The trial court’s ruling stated that fees under the UDJA were preempted by the Covenants Not to Compete Act.

After affirming the trial court’s determination of the enforceability of the covenant, the court of appeals determined that since the employee’s UDJA claim sought to declare the covenant unenforceable, his claim for attorney’s fees was not preempted.  The court noted: “The only claim brought in this case is Traina’s claim for a declaration that the covenant is unenforceable.  Under such circumstances, this case does not qualify as “an action to enforce a covenant not to compete” under the plain meaning of the statute.” (emphasis own).  The court concludes that since there was no claim to enforce the covenant not to compete, UDJA attorney’s fees are not preempted by section 15.52 of the Business and Commerce Code.  The court remanded the proceedings to determine the issue of whether the former employee is entitled to attorney’s fees.


Continue Reading Houston Appeals Court Reminds Employers Why They Should Review the Enforceability of Their Non-Compete Agreements with Employees

Join Labor & Employment Shareholder Taylor White for a live 90-minute CLE webinar titled ‘Construction Employers and OSHA Violations: Willful Violations, Civil and Criminal Penalties.’ This CLE webinar will provide construction counsel with advice based on recent decisions by the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission that found contractors were liable for hazardous working conditions

Winstead PC Shareholder Taylor White published his column in Texas Lawyer about labor and employment issues and trending topics. The article is titled ‘Employers Get Clarity on Mandatory COVID-19 Vaccination Policies in the Workplace.’ The article is below:

For months, employers and employment attorneys have navigated a number of considerations and governmental guidance documents regarding COVID-19 vaccinations in the workplace. A key question has been whether employers can implement policies requiring employees entering the workplace to be vaccinated against COVID-19. Notwithstanding the business consideration of whether such policies should be implemented, the consensus among practitioners has been that mandatory COVID-19 vaccinations in the workplace are legally permissible. Two recent developments have generally confirmed that consensus: the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s May 28, 2021, updates to its technical assistance guidance, and a recent federal court order dismissing claims brought by employees against their employer based on the employer’s mandatory vaccination policy.


Continue Reading Taylor White in Texas Lawyer: Employers Get Clarity on Mandatory COVID-19 Vaccination Policies in the Workplace

Winstead PC Shareholder Taylor White published his column in Texas Lawyer about labor and employment issues and trending topics. The article is titled “Misclassification Whiplash: US Department of Labor Withdraws Independent Contractor Rule.” The article is below:

As of May 6, the United States Department of Labor withdrew the Trump Administration’s “Independent Contractor Rule” (Rule). The Rule, had it gone into effect, would have arguably been more employer-friendly in that it would have potentially broadened the factual circumstances in which an independent contractor relationship could be found. It did so by focusing a 5-factor analysis on two “core factors,” which were “(1) [t]he nature and degree of the worker’s control over the work; and (2) the worker’s opportunity for profit or loss.”

The Department of Labor believed the rule was at odds with the FLSA’s statutory text and existing judicial precedent regarding the same. Specifically, the Department of Labor stated that the Rule’s focus on “two ‘core factors’ for determining employee status under the FLSA would have undermined the longstanding balancing approach of the economic realities test and court decisions requiring a review of the totality of the circumstances related to the employment relationship.” The Department of Labor’s goal with the withdrawal is to preserve protections for workers under the FLSA, as well as to ensure their access to benefits normally attendant in an employment relationship.
Continue Reading Taylor White in Texas Lawyer: Misclassification Whiplash: US Department of Labor Withdraws Independent Contractor Rule

Winstead PC Shareholder Taylor White published the second article for his column in Texas Lawyer about labor and employment issues and trending topics. The article is titled “OSHA Emphasizes Enforcement Effort for COVID-19 Hazards in Certain Industries.” The article is below:

Throughout the pandemic, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has faced criticism that it was not doing enough to protect America’s workers from COVID-19 hazards. Then, on Feb. 25, the U.S. Office of the Inspector General, the watchdog for the U.S. Department of Labor, issued a report, observing that “there is an increased risk that OSHA is not providing the level of protection that workers need at various job sites.” OSHA is focused on changing that perception in the coming months.


Continue Reading Taylor White in Texas Lawyer: OSHA Emphasizes Enforcement Effort for COVID-19 Hazards in Certain Industries

Winstead PC Shareholder Taylor White published the first article for his column in Texas Lawyer about labor and employment issues and trending topics. The article is titled “Best Practices and Considerations for Employers Regarding the COVID-19 Vaccine in the Workplace.” The article is below:

“With states individually rolling out the COVID-19 vaccine to residents, employers are, and should be, beginning to consider their options with respect to employee vaccinations. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has previously recommended giving the COVID-19 vaccine in phases initially, as it relates to employees: (1) health care employees; then, (2) frontline essential employees, such as education workers, manufacturing workers, first responders, and food and agricultural workers; and then, (3) other essential workers, such as construction workers, finance workers, and transportation and logistics workers. Of course, ‘the goal is for everyone to be able to easily get a COVID-19 vaccine as soon as large quantities are available.’


Continue Reading Taylor White in Texas Lawyer: Best Practices and Considerations for Employers Regarding the COVID-19 Vaccine in the Workplace

With political division in the United States on full display in the midst of a pandemic, Americans are faced with deepening rifts that touch not only their social circles and family units, but also their work lives. It therefore behooves employers to recognize the reality that disagreements about politics are likely to arise in one form or another in the workplace. With that in mind, employers should review their employment policies and related practices to ensure they are ready to address workplace disputes centered on politics, especially in light of the telecommuting arrangements that many employers are still utilizing during the pandemic.

Continue Reading It’s Time for Employers to Revisit Their Employment Policies to Be Ready to Address Political Disputes Among Coworkers

The United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit recently reminded employers that they should create and maintain contemporaneous documentation for their personnel decisions and implement flexible progressive discipline policies. Specifically, on December 7, 2020, the Fifth Circuit affirmed a district court’s grant of summary judgment in an employer’s favor on an employee’s age discrimination claim. It did so, in part, because the employer showed that a merit raise it gave the former employee pre-dated the documented decline in her performance and that its progressive discipline policy allowed it discretion in implementation of the progressive steps.

Continue Reading Fifth Circuit Reminds Employers of the Importance of Contemporaneous Documentation and Flexible Progressive Discipline Policies

Mandatory arbitration agreements for employees have been enforceable for decades.  Over the last several years, there has been an ongoing controversy between the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, among others, and the National Labor Relations Board as to whether mandatory arbitration agreements which prohibit collective actions are enforceable.  In the recent decision of Epic Systems Corp. v. Lewis, the U.S. Supreme Court has now held that employers may impose mandatory arbitration agreements which deny employees the right to file collective action arbitrations.  In other words, agreements requiring employees to proceed individually in arbitration are enforceable.  In the wake of this decision, many employers are opting to require their current employees to agree to mandatory arbitration. 
Continue Reading Implementing Your Mandatory Arbitration Program