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The exploitation of workers in Texas and an interesting take on non-solicitation agreements and social media posts

First, there have been some interesting reports about the
construction industry in Texas
.  In the
state, nearly half of the one million workers who are employed in the construction
industry are undocumented, and most have been in the United States for many
years.  Because most undocumented workers
are afraid to complain to state authorities about wage fraud and other
employment practices, employers take advantage by sometimes refusing to pay employees.  The Austin-based Workers Defense Project
handles wage fraud claims, and stated that 90% of its claims are wage-based in
nature.  The organization noted that many
of the wage claims relate to large commercial projects, and even state and
county projects- dispelling the notion that this type of wage fraud only
happens on a local level.  In addition,
many employers have taken to classifying employees as independent contractors
so that they can avoid paying Social Security taxes, payroll taxes, worker’s compensation,
or overtime.  The WDP estimated that
approximately $1.6 billion in federal income taxes is lost through this
practice in Texas alone.  In addition,
Texas is the most dangerous state for construction workers, with 10.7 deaths
per 100,000 workers in 2010.  One in five
workers will require hospitalization due to injuries suffered on the job, and Texas
is the only state in the nation without mandatory worker’s compensation. 

Companies that have tried to play by the rules have suffered.  Most clients do not care about the type of
exacting building standards that reward those businesses that conform to legal
and ethical standards of worker treatment and who conform to traditional
payroll practices.  The use of
subcontracting crews that exist outside the realm of workplace regulations is
widespread and lucrative, and some companies say only comprehensive immigration
reform will level the playing field and allow law-abiding companies to
compete.  In general, this underground
economy does not speak well about the desire of the Texas state government to
do something other than turn the state into the government equivalent of
Walmart- where price is the only measure that counts.

Next, a federal court issued an important
decision looking at social media and an employee’s obligations to his former
employer
.  The employer alleged that
social media use by a former employee violated a non-solicitation agreement,
and the court ruled that his Facebook and Twitter activities did not explicitly
violate the terms of his agreement.  While
working at the company, the employee in question created several programs to
improve productivity among the employees he was managing- programs that
involved creating program-specific Facebook and Twitter pages.  After deciding to leave the company, the employee
continued to post information about his new position on the social media sites
devoted to the employee productivity programs, and the employer sought a preliminary
injunction stating that the posts were job solicitations to the employee’s
former staff.  The court denied the
request, noting that the employee’s posts were just general announcements of
job opportunities, rather than direct solicitations.