Employment Law

New AAA Rules Effective September 1, 2014


For businesses that do business with consumers and include AAA arbitration clauses in their contacts, the American Arbitration Association is instituting a new set of rules specifically tailored to consumer disputes.  The new rules supercede the Consumer-Related Disputes Supplementary Procedures that were previously used in conjunction with the Commercial Rules.

To access AAA arbitration after September 1, 2014, businesses will have to register their arbitration agreements with the AAA. This process includes submitting a copy of the agreement to the AAA for review to ensure it complies with the Consumer Due Process Protocol, submitting other relevant documents, and paying an annual fee. The agreement will then be listed on the AAA’s new Consumer Clause Registry for public access. If a business does not register its agreement, it will not be able to use AAA administration for its dispute, and the courts could find that the dispute must remain in court.

We are happy to assist any of our clients in pursuing compliance with the AAA’s new consumer arbitration registration, and can also assist you with the arbitration process for any disputes that arise.

James Pikl, Board Certified in Consumer and  Commercial Law, Texas Board of Legal Specialization.  Learn more about James Pikl here

Categories: Employment Law

Crossing Paths: Employment Law & Social Media

Social media is fully engrained into our daily lives, whether it be a quick log-in to Facebook on the subway, tweeting live during a football game, or sharing photos of a home-cooked meal on Instagram. Social media usage is, of course, not solely limited to individuals, but is frequently used by small businesses and corporations alike. According to a new report by the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, 77 percent of Fortune 500 companies have active Twitter accounts, 70 percent have Facebook pages, and 69 percent have YouTube pages.[1]  Due to the pervasive use of social media, it touches even unexpected areas of our society, for example, employment law.

Photo credit: Institute for Social, Search, & Mobile Marketing

Photo credit: Institute for Social, Search, & Mobile Marketing

In light of recent changes in both state and federal regulations, it is imperative for employers to understand their rights in the sphere of social media. In January 2013, the Texas state house introduced a bill that would, “prohibit employers from requiring or requesting access to personal accounts of employees or job applicants through electronic communication devices.”[2]  The proposal included computers and social media accounts such as Facebook and Twitter as well as cell phones.  Texas State Representative Deborah Giddings, who introduced the bill, remarked that the “social media phenomenon is so new that…we have to set up these new guidelines to guide us into territories that, up to this point, have been uncharted.”[3]

Employers will likely find it increasingly difficult to keep pace with the unchartered changes in laws that regulate the crossroads of social media and employment law.  Employers should review their employee handbooks and company polices to ensure they are current and consult with an attorney to ensure their enforceability.  Organizations like Wiki Leaks and the controversy behind Edward Snowden will likely continue to bring privacy issues to the forefront of the American psyche and further propel the debate and proposal of even more legislation.  Thus, as social media’s popularity and usage continues to rise, the enactment of legislation to regulate the crossroads between social media and employment law will surely follow.

James Stafford focuses his practice in the area of business litigation and business formation as well as a diverse range of other litigation and business transaction matters on behalf of the firm’s clients. In addition to private practice, Mr. Stafford serves as a JAG attorney in the United States Army Reserves. For more information, email james.stafford@solidcounsel.com.

[1] Amy Gesenhues, Social Media Use Growing Among Fortune 500 List with 77% Tweeting & 70% on Facebook, Mktg. Land (July 23, 2013, 6:05 PM) http://marketingland.com/fortune-500-companys-social-media-use-on-the-rise-52726.
[2] H.B. 118, 2013 Leg., 83rd Sess. (Tex. 2013), available at http://www.legis.state.tx.us/tlodocs/83R/billtext/html/SB00118I.htm.
[3] Cody Permenter, Legislating Goes Social: Bills Would Address Web Post, Texas Tribune (Jan. 17, 2013) http://www.texastribune.org/2013/01/17/lawmakers-file-social-media-bills/.

Categories: Employment Law, Social Media

Business Owners: Beware of the Second Notice Trap!

As a business owner, you have plenty to worry about. But did you know you may be violating the Workers’ Compensation Act without even realizing it?

photo credit: kootation.com

photo credit: kootation.com

Texas is the only state that does not mandate employer participation in the state’s workers’ compensation system. Unlike other states, an employer may participate in the workers’ compensation system or choose to forego workers’ compensation insurance altogether.  However, many employers are unaware that, even if the company elects to participate in the workers’ compensation system, the employee of a subscribing employer has the individual right to waive coverage at the time of hire.

The Texas Workers’ Compensation Act (the “Act”) allows an employee (or beneficiaries) to be compensated if the employee suffers from a work-related injury. It tends to attract employer participation because it places a significant limitation on the employer’s liability if an employee is injured on the job. This “limitation” on the employer’s liability is that the injured employee is only allowed one remedy – either workers’ compensation insurance or common law rights of action.

All Texas employers must comply with certain notice requirements imposed by the Act.  For employers who maintain workers’ compensation coverage, the employer must first notify employees in writing and by posting a notice that the workers’ compensation coverage exists.  However, employers have an additional notice responsibility after this first notice to the employee.

Under the Administrative Code (and NOT the Labor Code or Workers’ Compensation Act) employers are further required to give each new (or newly-insured) employee notice of the employee’s right to opt out of coverage.  The notice is required to include the following statement:

“You may elect to retain your common law right of action if, no later than five days after you begin employment or within five days after receiving written notice from the employer that the employer has obtained coverage, you notify your employer in writing that you wish to retain your common law right to recover damages for personal injury. If you elect to retain your common law right of action, you cannot obtain workers’ compensation income or medical benefits if you are injured.”[1] Continue reading

Categories: Employment Law, Workers' Compensation Act

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