Job applications have transformed into legal documents that contain at least one disclaimer. For job applicants in Texas, the disclaimer asserts that the company has instituted an “at-will” employment policy for both hourly and salaried employees. Texas is considered one of the strongest advocates for at-will employment contracts in the United States. What does at-will employment mean, and what happens to your job if you are convicted of a crime?
As an experienced and Texas licensed attorney, Adam Capetillo understands the tough spot a conviction puts a worker in for any type of job. As hard as it is to explain to your employer why you have a criminal record, it is even more difficult to justify keeping you on the payroll, especially if the crime involved some type of theft or act of violence.
Adam Capetillo can help make sense of at-will employment contracts, as well as how at-will employment impacts the job of someone convicted of a crime.
Overview of Employment-At-Will
At its core legal meaning, at-will employment means your employer does not need a good reason to terminate you. For example, if your company has established an employment-at-will labor policy, then your boss can fire you for doing something as menial as showing up 10 minutes late to work. Every state except Montana has a law on the books that allows employers to establish employment-at-will labor contracts. However, not every state actively promotes itself as an at-will employer state. Texas does emphasize it is an employment-at-will state to attract companies that think about relocating to the Lone Star State.
Are You Considered an At-Will Employee?
Texas law assumes employees are employed at will unless they can prove otherwise by submitting documents that address hiring and firing issues.
During the application, most applicants are more concerned about landing a job than they are concerned about the internal policies implemented by a business. You might not notice a disclaimer mentioning an employment-at-will arrangement. After you are hired, you can expect to see numerous references to the company’s at-will employment status.
The first written document you come across at-will employment language should be inside the employee handbook. A section devoted to termination discusses the meaning of at-will employment, which boils down to giving the company complete control of the termination process. You should also come across at-will employment language during job evaluations and the written policies presented by your employer.
What are Your Rights?
Although Texas is an employment-at-will state, laws on the books at the state and federal levels prohibit certain types of terminations. State and federal statutes that forbid any form of discrimination to prohibit employers from firing employees based on age, race, gender, and sexual orientation. You cannot be fired for exposing criminal activity, such as the laundering of money to prevent paying taxes. Exposing health and/or safety violations cannot lead to your termination as well. You have the right to take time off for a family leave reason, as well as to recover from a medical condition. Your employer cannot terminate the employment relationship if you serve in the United States military or become part of a jury hearing a criminal case.
Texas and Criminal Records
States vary in how they approach restricting the use of criminal records to make employment decisions that include whether to fire someone for a criminal conviction. Some states have chosen to limit employer access to criminal records, while other states factor in the seriousness of the crime. A few states even prohibit employers from gaining access to arrest records.
Texas has established two restrictions on employers and the use of criminal records. If a job pays less than $75,000 a year and a criminal conviction is more than seven years old, the conviction cannot appear on a consumer report or a background check. The restriction does not apply to employees earning more than $75,000 per year and to employees that work in jobs that are considered safety-sensitive.
The second restriction in Texas concerns expungements. Texas law permits employees to deny a criminal conviction if a court ordered the criminal records associated with the case to be expunged. Expungement can occur when someone is later exonerated of a crime or is pardoned by the appropriate government agency.
Know where You Stand
As a strong advocate for employment-at-will agreements, Texas allows employers to terminate employees for just about any reason. This means that if you have a criminal conviction on your record, and the crime happened while you were employed by your current company, your employer can fire you if anyone finds out about the conviction. The stress and anxiety caused by losing a job because of a criminal conviction is reason enough to contact an accomplished lawyer. Financial harm because of lost wages is another reason to get in touch with Texas attorney Adam Capetillo.