Understanding At-Will Employment in Texas
Can a Person be Fired for No Reason in Texas?
In many situations, an employee in the state of Texas can be fired for little to no reason. Unless there is an an agreement stating otherwise, all employees in the state of Texas are considered at-will employees. At-will employees can be fired for any reason or sometimes for no reason at all.
Sometimes, it might even be easier for an employer to terminate an employee without a reason than to specify a cause because listing a particularly cause could leave an employer subject to potential discrimination claims.
At-Will Employee Contracts
At-will employment in Texas has become a standard type of employment contract. Employees are at risk of being terminated for any reason without warning and without explanation. Many at-will employees sign agreements that the employee is being hired at-will. While employers can terminate an employee at any moment, many employers prefer the more socially accepted standard of providing an employee with two weeks’ notice.
Many employees are surprised to learn that termination can occur even if the employee has never been written up or received any form or reprimand from an employer. Many employers, however, have a policy in places that detail disciplinary action that must taken prior to terminating an employee’s position.
The Rights of At-Will Employees
At-will employees in Texas have several specific rights and established methods to respond to unlawful terminations. Although at-will employees cannot generally initiate a successful legal action for wrongful termination, at-will employees can often initiate a successful legal action for illegal termination which includes discrimination and retaliation by an employer.
Differences in Pay for At-Will Employees
In the same way that employers can terminate an employee for any cause, employers can also lessen an employee’s pay, deny a promotion, or even deny a pay raise.in accordance with the law unless the employer either does so due to discrimination or retaliation. Under law in the state of Texas, an employer must pay the minimum wage that is established under the Fair Labor Standards Act.
An employer is also able to pay another employee who is performing the same job a different amount unless this pay discrepancy is a violation of discrimination or retaliation law.
Work Schedule Rights for At-Will Employees
An employer can also determine the work schedule of an employee and can alter this schedule at the employer’s will. If a work schedule is unacceptable, then an employee must find a new job. Texas law also places no restrictions on the hours that an employee can work, but employers must pay employees overtime for hours worked in excess of forty hours per week.
Law in the state of Texas does not require an employer to provide breaks at an allotted schedule unless an employee works in a particularly hazardous environment.
Time Off Rights for At-Will Employees
Texas law also does not require employers to grant employees any vacation or holiday time with this matter depending solely upon an employer’s policy. While employers can monitor an employee’s conduct in the workplace, an employer’s ability to monitor an employee in private areas like a restroom or changing area are much more limited.
Payment Times for At-Will Employees
Law in the state of Texas specifies that employees must be in accordance with certain requirements. Employees must be twice a month with paydays on the first and fifteenth of the month unless an employer specifies otherwise. For employees who are exempt from overtime regulations, an employer must provide a paycheck at least once a month.
If an employee is terminated from their position, an employer must pay any remaining wages within six days from termination. Texas law prohibits employers from withholding any money from paychecks except for: deductions pursuant to court orders, deductions provided by state or federal law, or deductions agreed to by an employee in writing.
Many employers in the state of Texas establish a certain probation period for employees of often thirty, sixty, or ninety days. Employers during this period determine whether an individual can show up for work on time, work a schedule, perform the assigned job duties, and work well within the context of the workplace.
An employee who fails to meet any of these elements can be terminated under the justification that such behavior is the beginning of a pattern. Often times, employers choose to terminate employees during this period because employees will have a much harder time collecting unemployment benefits.
Common Reasons Why At-Will Employees Are Fired
There are many reasons why companies fire at-will employees. Even though employment at-will means that an employee can be terminated at any time without reason, many employers will not fire an employee without cause. Termination for “cause” means that an employee’s position is terminated for a specific reason.
Some of the most common reasons why employees are terminated from jobs include the following:
- Damaging company property.
- Drug or alcohol possession in the workplace.
- Falsifying a company’s records.
- Lying on a resume or a job application.
- Not getting along with co-workers or supervisors.
- Poor performance.
- Posting inappropriate content on social media sites.
- Taking too much time off of work
- Using company property for personal purposes.
- Violating an employer’s policies.
Exception to Termination of At-Will Employees
Even at-will employees have the right to never be fired for reasons that are illegal. There are several exception where the termination of an at-will employees is considered to be unlawful, which include the following:
- An employment contract or union contract that states an employee cannot be terminated unless a certain cause exists. Other times, an employer might have created an employment contract by stating that an employee would only be fired for good reason.
- The termination violates one of several types of public policies including discrimination or retaliation law. At-will employees cannot be fired due to age, disability, gender, marital status, race, religion, or sexual orientation. Employers are also not permitted to harass employees who complain about an employer’s illegal activity, refuse to participate in discrimination, participate in health and safety violations, or take medical or military leave.