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Houston Business & Commercial Law Blog

Protecting your company against employee retaliation

Angry or upset employees can and do retaliate unfairly against their employers for slights ranging from personality differences to termination. According to Smart Business, employment dispute claims have increased in the past few years. Each year in Texas and throughout the rest of the country, more than 100,000 cases are filed against employers over the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s statutes.

While such claims can harm a business of any size, small businesses are the most vulnerable. The average claim costs a business $50,000, and defense costs can rise exponentially if a claim is taken to court. Employers have every right to discipline an employee when the action is warranted, or to withhold a benefit that they are not legally required to provide, but they should understand that such actions can come with repercussions from a disgruntled employee.

Texas may prove to be national leader in business tort reform

Any company owner, whether the business is large or small, understands the importance of fair laws to protect the company in the event of a lawsuit. The outcome of business litigation can bring a corporation to its knees—and, unfortunately, many unfair lawsuits have been filed by unscrupulous entities with no regard to the harm they cause companies, customers and taxpayers.

Various legal reforms by Texas lawmakers may have further strengthened the state’s status as being corporation-friendly, especially when it comes to protecting business owners from abusive lawsuits, tortuous interference and deceptive trade practices. For 10 years in a row, Texas has been named by numerous top CEOs as the best state to operate a business, in large part to these reforms. Many large national corporations, including Toyota, have begun relocating their operations to Texas from other states that are known for permitting judicial injustices, such as California and New York. This has the potential to greatly increase Texas’ business economy and create thousands of jobs.

Smartphone giant Samsung in contract dispute with Microsoft

In today’s digital world, emerging technology is becoming as competitive and as lucrative as many other more traditional markets, such as real estate and commercial goods. In some cases, new technology is even surpassing other fields to become one of the fastest-growing and most successful industries today. Consumers need only look at the success of technology and Internet giants such as Apple and Google to understand the impact of digital technology on today’s society. Many Houston businesses that deal in technology have great potential for success. However, there is also the chance of being involved in complicated litigation surrounding digital technology and intellectual property, including breach of contract lawsuits and more.

Recently, Microsoft accused Samsung, one of the world’s leading manufacturers of smartphones, of not complying with the terms of both companies’ longstanding partnership. In the contract dispute, the software giant says Samsung is failing to make payments for patented Microsoft technology that the smartphone maker uses in its phones and tablets, allegedly breaking a 2011 agreement that allowed Samsung to use Microsoft’s intellectual property.

Texas meteorologist alleges station committed age discrimination

As the population ages, there are frequent claims from older workers that allege their employers discriminate against them. In some cases in Houston, companies may be accused of trying to force out more seasoned employees in order to bring in younger staff. Such allegations can quickly devolve into employment litigation that involves a host of accusations, as one recent incident illustrates.

In 2013, a meteorologist in Bryan and College Station, Texas, took medical leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act. The 59-year-old, who had worked for 23 years at the station, claimed that a stressful workload and long hours led him to seek treatment at a Houston facility for both depression and exhaustion. In a lawsuit filed against the station, the man claims that he was forced to work the holidays in 2012 when his co-workers younger than 40 were given time off. Additionally, the man alleges that while he was on leave, the news station advertised an open meteorologist position even though FMLA should have protected his job. The general manager of the station said it was a coincidence.

Texas A&M assistant professor alleges wrongful termination

For many professors, getting tenured at a university is a dream come true. Those in Houston with such coveted positions know that it means job stability and perhaps peace of mind. The process some people go through to get tenured can be detailed, and school personnel should handle the situation delicately to avoid an employment discrimination charge. One suit against a Texas university illustrates how employees could interpret their termination.

A former assistant professor at Texas A&M University in Galveston has filed a lawsuit against the school alleging several instances of discrimination. The man, born in India, claims that he was harassed and wrongfully terminated. Among his allegations are that the school loaded him with classes that others did not want to teach and granted extensions to other professors but not him. He also states that his papers were thrown in the trash and he was forced to move his lab. As a result, the man claims that these actions led to his termination.

Texas-based Buc-ee's files trademark infringement lawsuit against Frio Beaver

Consumers in Texas and the rest of the country often develop strong attachments to their favorite retail stores and establishments. For this reason, the logos and symbols that represent these companies are some of their most valuable assets, and they may even take it upon themselves to keep other companies from infringing upon their rights. Sometimes, these disputes lead to business litigation.

When Buc-ee’s opened a new convenience store in Texas City, 60,000 of its loyal fans lined up for the grand opening. Fans of the local chain have come to associate the store with its logo, which features a beaver mascot with a yellow background.

Texas assisted living home accused of deceptive trade practices

Many businesses must have a license in place in order to operate. Additionally, there are industry-specific standards that govern the way Houston companies work. An accusation of violating those standards could result in costly business litigation proceedings that can drain time and money. As one Texas assisted living facility is learning, it is important to have proper documentation and representation.

In winter of 2011-2012, freezing temperatures caused a sprinkler system in the assisted living facility to break. Court documents state that roughly 200 people lived on the upper floors of the building and went without protection from a fire for eight months. The fire marshal’s office and the attorney general’s office both indicated that the facility should make the repairs, which would have cost less than $3,000.

Drug makers worry warning label change could cost billions

A business that provides products or services to consumers should do everything possible to ensure protection against lawsuits. Many company owners in Houston may find that a misstep can quickly lead to business litigation. Providing adequate warning to consumers regarding the risks of an item or activity could prevent such legal action.

The Food and Drug Administration is stirring up controversy with the way certain warnings are delivered. Generic drugs, which comprise more than 80 percent of prescription medications ordered in the United States, do not have legal requirements to updated labels following news of its brand name counterpart causing harm until the brand name drug updates its label. Once the generic drug has an FDA-approved label, consumers are not allowed to sue a company based on failure-to-warn allegations.

Texas restaurant pays $650,000 in back wages after labor dispute

There are several ways a restaurant may choose to pay its serving staff. Some Texas venues run on the traditional practice of allowing servers to keep what they earn in tips, and others pool tips and divide the amount equally among the staff. A slight mistake in either method can lead to wage and hour disputes. As one incident involving a famous steakhouse illustrates, the consequences of failing to compensate staff according to federal regulations can be expensive.

The Big Texan Steak Ranch is known for offering a 72-ounce steak dinner as an eating challenge: The meal is on the house for anyone who can consume it in an hour. The restaurant is now making headlines after a 2011 audit revealed that some of the pooled tips had been used to pay for business costs. Additionally, federal investigators noted that there were several record-keeping and wage violations.

Texas woman may get 30 years for embezzling from bank

Many workers have, from time to time, violated an office policy. It could be as simple as breaking the dress code or failing to punch the clock in a timely fashion. Some Texans, however, commit blatant offenses such as embezzlement that not only carry consequences in the workplace but also have legal repercussions. As one recent incident illustrates, employees may steal from both their employer and the business’ customers.

For roughly six years, a woman worked as a banker at an East Texas business. During that time, she served as an officer for the organization. Over the course of her employment, she embezzled roughly $335,000 from the bank. According to investigators, the woman accessed the money from certificates of deposit and payroll accounts. She also fraudulently issued loans and even stole money from accounts that were dubbed “Christmas Club,” which customers of the bank used to save money for the holidays.

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