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Houston Business & Commercial Law Blog

Clear contracts and notarization can prevent contract disputes

For small and large Texas business owners alike, there can hardly be a bigger headache than a contract dispute. Upon signing a contract, it is assumed that both parties agree upon the terms and will make every reasonable effort to uphold them. However, as it sometimes happens, one of the parties down the line may end up breaking one or more terms of the contract, whether from a misunderstanding or a willful act of noncompliance.

Breach of contract disputes can occur between businesses and employees, partners, subcontractors or other companies with whom they do business. Simply put, whenever a contract is signed, there is the potential for a contract dispute. According to the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts, it is in all parties’ best interests to fully understand and agree upon the terms of the contract before signing, to avoid contract disputes down the line. It is possible to revise or agree upon other terms of the contract at a later time; however, business owners can reduce the risk of a disagreement by making sure everything covered in the contract is outlined in clear and easily understandable language.

Founder of El Paso company files lawsuit against board

When starting a business in Texas, it may not occur to company owners that they may one day be forced out of their position, especially if the company is doing well.

More than 45 years ago, Jerry Rubin founded hair-care products company Helen of Troy as a boutique wig shop in El Paso. Today, the company has thousands of employees, conducts multinational business and earns over $1.3 billion a year. After being asked to step down as chief executive, Mr. Rubin filed a business litigation case against the board of directors, claiming it fraudulently forced him out of his company.

When disputes arise between businesses and shareholders

Like many companies in Texas, your business may utilize shareholders to forward the company's financial interests and keep it running smoothly. However, relations between those in charge of a company and the shareholders may not always be positive. At The Jackson Law Firm, we are experienced in helping businesses navigate the complications that can occur when a shareholder dispute arises.

Ideally, shareholders represent a company's best interests by electing an effective board of directors, who in turn are responsible for company management. According to the Harvard Business Review, shareholders are important company investors, and therefore have an interest in the company's ability to succeed. As such, they often have the power to change company management by a vote if they feel the current board of directors is ineffective. The opinions of shareholders and company management can often clash, leading to business disputes.

Common reasons employees sue their bosses

It’s a nightmare for a business owner when the company gets sued by an employee, particularly if the company is a smaller business. Unfortunately, many more people in Texas as well as other states may resort to litigation than in years past. According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, wrongful termination cases increase every year.

In fact, wrongful termination is one of the top causes for an employee to file a lawsuit, says Forbes. There are no grounds for these lawsuits in most situations, but it doesn’t stop a former employee from trying. A business can protect itself from the possibility of a lawsuit by ensuring it does not violate equal rights and safety laws regarding wages and hours, discrimination, dangerous work conditions, harassment and workers’ compensation.

Texas bat cave preserved in deal with real estate developer

When it comes to new construction in undeveloped areas, there is often the issue of balancing growth and nature. In a place like Texas – where employment is up and the population is booming – there is great potential for residential and commercial real estate development. This is great news for the state’s economy, but sometimes growth can conflict with our natural resources and treasures.

In a preserve outside San Antonio resides the largest bat colony in the world. Bracken Bat Cave shelters up to 20 million Mexican free-tail bats, which benefit the ecosystem by consuming about 100 tons of insects each night during the warm months. A developer that owned land near the preserve had planned on building about 3,500 homes, but conservationists worried that a new housing development would threaten the bat colony. Bats are attracted to the lights of homes and neighborhoods, and bat experts predicted that a nearby residential area would create a danger to the creatures as well as a public nuisance to homeowners.

Houston wage theft ordinance becomes model for other communities

Despite federal laws that require employers to pay employees the wages they are due, about 4.3 percent of workers throughout the U.S. are paid less than minimum wage, says the Bureau of Labor Statistics. At 6.4 percent, Texas is higher than the national average for unfair wages. Many businesses in the state, particularly construction companies, cheat their workers out of deserved pay by denying overtime wages, failing to pay the state-mandated minimum wage or even paying nothing at all.

Immigrants and undocumented workers are among those most affected by unfair wage practices. In a highly competitive job market, many avoid starting wage and hour disputes out of fear of being replaced or being reported to immigration authorities.

Texas company files complaint against another for unpaid services

Breach of contract cases often extend beyond a complaint of an employer against an employee and vice versa. In many instances, a company will have reason to go against another company it has done business with, if the other company failed to keep all or a portion of the agreement. If a Texas business hasn’t been paid monies due for goods or services provided to another company, or if there is any other type of contract dispute, the entity has the right to have its case heard in court.

In a recent case, Jefferson County company Pentair Thermal Management filed a complaint against a couple doing business as Instrumentation Technologies and Components. Pentair alleges that the other company did not pay $45,296.37 out of the $50,329.30 owed to it for labor and materials that it provided. The complaint cites breach of contract, unjust enrichment and negligent misrepresentation, plus the amount owed, pre- and post-judgment interest and attorneys’ fees.

Top factors affecting commercial real estate in Texas

Many industries are enjoying an employment and construction boom in Texas, thanks to the state’s strong hold on the energy market and a growing population of young professionals who have adapted to working in a variety of settings. Today’s business climate has great potential for growth and change, but can also present challenges in the areas of commercial real estate, housing, services and employment.

According to Dallas News, Texas was the top state in the country for job growth last January and the state was expected to remain at or near the top throughout the year. The construction industry was especially positive, with Texas construction employment ranking third in the U.S. for job opportunities in 2013.

Former TESCO employee files racial discrimination lawsuit

When it comes to employment litigation regarding sensitive topics such as racial or sexual discrimination, employers need to be very careful. A Texas company may have a valid reason for disciplining or firing someone, but it’s not uncommon for an angry employee to fire back at his or her former employer with accusations of wrongful discharge. Such employment discrimination cases can be costly and damaging to the company’s reputation.

In one recent case, a man from Harris County has filed a lawsuit against TESCO, his former employer, accusing the company of racial discrimination and retaliation. The man alleges that he was repeatedly reprimanded and written up for false allegations and minor mistakes that his white coworkers were not disciplined for. He says that after he made complaints about discrimination to the human resources department, he was transferred to a different location, transferred back abruptly and then terminated. In his lawsuit, he seeks an unspecified amount in damages and reparation, including back pay compensation, emotional pain and the reinstatement of his former position and pay grade.

The purpose of noncompete agreements

On first glance, it may seem unfair to file a lawsuit against a former employee who has left the company to start a similar business of his or her own. However, this type of litigation is meant to protect a company from not only unfair competition, but to prevent against the theft of trade secrets and other matters pertaining to a former insider in the company.

It’s common for many Texas businesses to have employees sign noncompete agreements upon hiring, particularly if the new hire is to have access to critical information relating to the business’s operations, client base and finances. The American Bar Association states that a noncompete agreement can prevent a former employee from misusing information and secrets learned from his or her previous job. Including a noncompete clause in an employment contract is also meant to prevent a former employee from recruiting a company’s valuable employees.

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