States were authorized to establish their own rates and overtime rules so long as they exceeded but didn’t undercut the federal rate. Today, the rate in Texas matches the federal minimum wage rate of $7.25 an hour.
For the first time ever, the FLSA also established child labor law standards, regulating how many hours children could work and in which industries. While these standards are still being updated today, current Texas child labor laws mandate, among other standards, the following:
- Aside from certain occupations in agriculture and the entertainment industry (child actors), children younger than 14 may not be employed by companies. However, children under the age of 14 may be employed directly by their parents as a sole proprietor, the only partners of a partnership, or the sole owners of a corporate business.
- No hazardous duties for any child under the age of 18. A list of hazardous duty categories can be found on the Texas Workforce Commission website.
- Children aged 14 or 15 are not permitted to work during school hours.
- Children aged 14 or 15 are not permitted to work more than three hours during a school day, and no more than 18 hours in a school week.
- Children aged 14 or 15 are not permitted to work between the hours of 7:00 p.m. and 7:00 a.m. during the school year.
- There are no limitations on hours of work for children aged 16 or 17, however, employers must ensure that their work schedules do not cause problems for these employees under any school truancy laws or local curfews that may apply.
- Children are entitled to minimum wage and overtime pay. A sub-minimum wage of $4.25/hour is permissible during the first 90 days of employment.
OSHA and Safety Standards in the Workplace
The Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSH Act) of 1970 established a regulatory agency as part of the Department of Labor called the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). The agency then began formulating standards of safety in general for all businesses and specifically for various industries.
On top of industry-specific standards and regulations, the OSH Act’s General Duty Clause established an umbrella mandate to maintain a work environment "free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm."
The OSH Act also enabled states to establish their own safety administrations, so long as their standards were equal to or better than the federal regulations. Today, there are 22 states operating their own agencies. Texas is currently regulated by Federal OSHA laws and safety standards.
Anti-Discrimination Laws and the Workplace
The Civil Rights Act of 1964 took the first step toward protecting job applicants and employees from discrimination in the workplace. Title VII of the act prohibits any unequal treatment of “protected classes” based on the following:
- National Origin
Later laws further expanded these protections to prevent employers from discriminating based on age (40 and up), gender, disability, veteran or military status, and genetic information. The Supreme Court also expanded the meaning of sex to include gender identity and sexual orientation. Together, these efforts protect applicants and employees from discrimination in hiring, promotion, discharge, pay, fringe benefits, and more.
Harassment, defined as unwanted verbal or physical behavior intended to humiliate and offend an employee, is also prohibited by state and federal law. The most commonly cited form is sexual harassment, though brow-beating and humiliation can be fairly common as well.
These anti-discrimination statutes are enforced by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), which fields some 70,000-plus discrimination complaints a year, with another 7,000-plus sexual harassment filings. The EEOC will investigate complaints and, when warranted, attempt to mediate with the employer for a settlement or, barring mediation, initiate legal action. It can also issue a “right to sue” letter to the aggrieved party to pursue legal remedies on their own.
States also enact and enforce their own equal employment opportunity (EEO) laws that equal or surpass federal protections. The Texas Workforce Commission policies state anti-discrimination and various other employment laws.
Retaliation and Wrongful Termination
Applicants, employees, and former employees are also protected from retaliation (punishment) for filing a complaint of discrimination, participating in a discrimination investigation or lawsuit, or opposing discrimination by, for instance, standing up for another who is being discriminated against. Whistleblowers for safety and other violations are also protected against retaliation.
Federal and state anti-discrimination statutes and standards also protect employees from wrongful termination. That is, termination based solely or mainly on their protected status; for instance, firing someone because of age, race, or other protected characteristics.