The Common Law
Can I see my employment personnel file?
Generally no. In Texas, a personnel file is considered the property of the employer, not the employee. As a general rule, employees in the private sector do not have any rights to access, copy, or look at their personnel files, and employers are under no obligation to share the information they retain on their employees.
Under the Freedom of Information Act, the personnel files of public employees are generally available upon request to anyone. Public employees can request that certain personal identifying information, such as home address, home phone number, dates of birth, etc., are withheld from the file and undisclosed.
I'm an hourly employee, and I've been working 50-plus hours per week for the last several months. I want to cut back to 40 hours per week but am worried my boss might fire me if I don't work the extra hours. Can I be fired if I refuse to work overtime?
Unless you have an agreement stating otherwise, your boss can ask you to work more than 40 hours per week. The Fair Labor Standards Act (the federal overtime law) sets no limits on how many hours a day or week your employer can require you to work. An employer can generally fire an employee if he or she refuses to work overtime.
The Fair Labor Standards Act does, however, require that most employees be paid overtime at "time and a half" for the hours worked in excess of 40 hours during any "workweek." You might want to contact the Texas Workforce Commission (800/832-9243) if you have not received the proper overtime pay for additional hours.
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Marrs, Ellis & Hodge LLP, www.jmehlaw.com.
The material in this column is for informational purposes only. It does not constitute, nor is it a substitute for, legal advice. For advice on your specific facts and circumstances, consult a licensed attorney. You may wish to contact the Lawyer Referral Service of Central Texas, a non-profit public service of the Austin Bar Association, at 512-472-8303 or www.austinlrs.com.