Guide to Texas employee benefits and HR rules
For HR professionals and small to medium size business owners in Texas, there’s a lot you need to know before you start designing your employee benefits package at your company.
If you’re looking to offer personalized employee benefits that meet Texas regulations, we’ve got you covered! Schedule a free consultation with a personalized benefits advisor.
Is your organization compliant with Texas employment laws?
If you have a Texas-based company, or remote employees located in Texas, you need to understand the state’s benefits and HR compliance regulations. This guide will provide a general overview of the Texas laws for small to medium size businesses.
Topics covered in this guide include:
What are employment laws in Texas?
The federal government sets the minimum requirements for employees regarding employee benefits and HR. But some states have their own employment laws, either strengthening federal laws or adding new protections altogether—and Texas is no exception.
In Texas, there are a few state-specific laws that employers must follow in addition to federal employment laws, such as:
- At-will employment
- Since 1888, Texas has been an “at-will” employment state. This means an employer can fire an employee at any time without employer notice and for any reason, unless they have a specific contract stating otherwise. Employers aren’t legally required to provide a reason for termination.
- However, The Texas Commission on Human Rights Act prohibits employers from firing employees based on discriminatory purposes, such as for their race, national origin, sex, color, religion, sexual orientation, gender, age, medical reasons, etc.
- Texas Right-to-Work Laws
- Under the Texas Labor Code, a person can’t be denied employment because of membership or non-membership in a labor union or other labor organization.
- Additionally, Texas laws protect employees from threats, force, intimidation, or coercion for choosing to either participate or not participate in a labor union.
- Texas Legal Holiday Laws
- Texas legal holidays include Confederate Heroes Day, Texas Independence Day, San Jacinto Day, and Lyndon Baines Johnson Day.
- State employees are entitled to a paid day off for both federal and Texas state holidays.
- Texas Whistleblower Laws
- Texas whistleblower laws protect employees from employer retaliation. Texas generally defines employer retaliation as suspending, terminating, or taking other adverse action against an employee for reporting a violation.
- Only public employees are protected from retaliation (some states protect both public and private employees).
- Texas Child Labor Laws
- Children who are 16 and 17 years old may work in a variety of jobs, but can’t work in jobs deemed to be too hazardous.
- Children 14 and 15 years old may work in a variety of jobs, but are limited in the number of hours per day and per week they can work, particularly during the school season.
- Children 13 years old or younger can’t work in Texas, except in limited situations.
Now that we’ve gone over a few Texas-specific laws, we’ll review the state’s employee rights.
What are employee rights in Texas?
Texas employees have certain rights under federal and state law. If you have or plan to hire employees in Texas, you'll need to know what rights your employees have, and don’t have, at your organization.
Some state rights include:
- Fair wages
- Employers must pay at least the federal minimum wage and follow federal overtime regulations.
- Lunch breaks
- Employers aren’t required to give unpaid or paid lunch breaks to employees. However, if employers allow them, breaks lasting less than 20 minutes must be paid. Lunch breaks of 30 minutes or more don’t have to be paid.
- Work breaks
- Employers must allow adequate restroom breaks for workers.
- Disclosure of previous employee information
- A former employer can only give a previous employee’s potential future employer the reason why the employee left (if the employee was terminated), the reason why the employee was terminated, the employee’s job performance, and information about the employee’s attendance, attitude, and effort.
- Employer deduction from paychecks
- Employers can’t deduct money from a worker’s paycheck to offset an employee’s error if the employee genuinely made the mistake.
- Safe workplace conditions
- According to the Occupational Safety and Health Act and the Texas Occupational Safety Act and Hazard Communication Act, employers must provide a workplace free from known dangers that could harm a worker.
- Additionally, workers have a right to refuse to work in an unsafe environment.
Required and non-required employee benefits in Texas
Some employee benefits are required under Texas labor laws, in addition to federal regulations. However, some benefits that may be required in other states don’t apply in Texas. Many benefits are left up to the individual businesses’ discretion.
|What’s not required
Employers with 15 or more employees must provide reasonable accommodations to employees or applicants with disabilities, unless such an accommodation would be an undue hardship.Employers must accommodate breastfeeding people. The Fair Labor Standards Act requires employers to provide nursing people reasonable break times to express milk for nursing children for one year following the child’s birth.
|Federal and Medical Leave Act (FMLA)
However, employers must comply with the FMLA if they have at least 50 employees for at least 20 weeks in the current or previous year.
Employees that meet certain eligibility requirements are allowed up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave.
|Employers with less than 50 employees aren’t required to provide employees with family and medical leave.
|Paid time off
|Employers aren’t required to provide employees unpaid or paid time off, such as vacation time, bereavement leave, or parental leave.
|Public employees are eligible through the Employees Retirement System of Texas with its Texas Employees Group Benefits Program.
Private employers aren’t required to provide retirement benefits to employees.
However, a business owner can provide the benefit on their own, but they must adhere to ERISA, which mandates that employees who work at least 1,000 hours in a year be given the option to join a pension or retirement plan.
|A public employer must give their employees sick time at the rate of eight hours per month of employment for full-time employees.
|Private employers aren’t required to provide unpaid or paid sick time for private-sector employees.
|State employees are entitled to a paid day off for both federal and Texas state holidays.
|Private employees aren’t entitled to holiday pay for federal or state holidays, but their employer may choose to include it in their benefits package.
|Employers must give their employees paid time off for voting on election days during official voting hours.
|Jury duty leave
|Employers must provide leave to their permanent employees summoned for jury duty or grand jury duty.
|Workers' compensation insurance
|Employers aren’t required to have workers’ compensation coverage. However, employers can choose to implement it at their organization.
|Under certain circumstances, Texas residents may be eligible for unemployment benefits while they search for other employment.
Wage laws in Texas
Wages in Texas are subject to various state laws, but most are defined in the Texas Payday Law. We've compiled the essential requirements of the law to know below.
Minimum wage laws
Texas doesn’t have state-specific or local ordinances regarding minimum wage requirements. Therefore, they use the current federal minimum wage rate of $7.25 per hour. However, the Texas Minimum Wage Act allows employees to bargain with their employers for higher pay over the federal minimum wage rate.
If an employer has an employee that lives on the business premises, the employer doesn’t have to pay the worker for any on-call job duties performed in addition to their regular working hours. Additionally, employers may count tips and the cost of meals and lodging toward the minimum wage rate.
Pay for meetings or training
The U.S. Department of Labor considers compensable time as "all the time during which an employee is necessarily required to be on the employer's premises, on duty, or at a prescribed workplace."
Therefore, employees must be paid for all time worked, whether that time is spent in meetings, training, or doing regular work.
Texas follows the federal law for overtime pay. Under the FLSA, federal employees must receive overtime pay if they work more than 40 hours in one workweek.
For every hour of overtime work, employees can be paid in one of two ways:
- Employees can be paid at a rate of 1.5 times their regular wages
- Employee can receive 1.5 hours of paid time off
Each exempt employee must be paid at least once a month. Non-exempt employees and other workers must be paid at least twice a month. Semi-monthly pay periods must be as evenly spaced within the month as possible. From there, employers can choose any paydays they want.
If an employer doesn’t designate paydays, paydays will be the first and 15th of each month.
Bonuses or wages paid on a commission basis are due according to the terms of the agreement between the employee and employer.
At the end of each pay period, employers must give each employee a written statement containing the following information:
- Employee's name
- Pay rate
- Total pay earned for the pay period
- Any deductions made and the purpose of the deductions
- Net pay after the deductions
- Total number of hours worked
Unless an employee agrees in writing to accept part or all of their wages in another form, wages must be paid in cash, by a check that is negotiable for cash on demand at full-face value, or by direct deposit.
Wages must be delivered to the employee at their workplace during regular working hours, mailed, or electronically deposited no later than payday. Delivery can also be made to any person authorized by the employee in writing.
Employees must be paid in full on the next payday if they quit, and terminated employees must be paid in full within six days. If an employee isn’t paid on a payday for any reason, the employer must pay the wages on a different business day of the employee’s choosing.
An employee may be entitled to unused wages for fringe benefits, like vacation, holiday, sick leave, parental leave, or severance pay, if the employer provides these benefits at their organization in a prior written agreement.
Employers aren’t required to pay severance pay to any employee unless a severance package has been promised through a written agreement during the hiring process.
Under state law, wages may be withheld only when the employer:
- Is required to do so by state or federal law (i.e., IRS withholding)
- Is ordered to do so by a court (i.e., child support payments)
- The employee's written authorization for the deduction and the purpose is lawful (i.e., for health or retirement benefits).
- Written employee authorizations must meet certain requirements.
If an employee believes they’re due unpaid wages, they can submit a wage claim with the Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) no later than 180 days after the wages were due.
TWC investigates all claims to determine whether wages are owed to employees under the Texas Payday Law. If TWC determines that the employer must pay, the employer pays the TWC, and TWC pays the employees their wages. Both the person claiming unpaid wages and the employer have a right to appeal the determination.
If TWC determines that an employer acted in bad faith by not paying wages, the employer may be issued an administrative penalty equal to the wages claimed or $1,000—whichever is less. The same penalty can be issued against an employee who files a wage claim in bad faith.
Health insurance in Texas
Like most states, Texas companies with fewer than 50 full-time equivalent employees (FTEs) aren’t required to offer health insurance. The Affordable Care Act (ACA) only mandates applicable large employers (ALE) with 50+ workers to provide health insurance with minimum essential coverage (MEC).
However, just because you’re not required to offer health benefits at your organization doesn’t mean you shouldn’t. After all, offering health benefits to your employees is a great way to attract and retain top talent.
To qualify for traditional group health insurance in Texas, your company typically needs at least two employees, including the owner. However, rising healthcare costs and minimum contribution and participation requirements have made it challenging for small to medium size businesses to offer a group plan.
Luckily, PeopleKeep offers some alternatives for small business owners who can't or choose not to provide group coverage in Texas. Let’s briefly dive into those options below.
Health reimbursement arrangement (HRA)
A health reimbursement arrangement (HRA) is an IRS-approved, employer-funded health benefit that allows you to reimburse your employees, tax-free, for their individual health insurance premiums and qualifying medical expenses.
With an HRA, you have complete control over your benefit while giving your employees more freedom to choose how they want to use their benefit.
Learn more about each HRA
For employers with 1-49 employees
A simple, controlled-cost alternative to group health insurance.
For employers of all sizes
A flexible health benefit that can be used alone or alongside group health insurance.
A health stipend is a fixed sum of money offered to your employees to help pay for their healthcare expenses. A health employee stipend isn't a formal group health plan, so you have complete control over which expenses are eligible for reimbursement.
This makes a health stipend an excellent option for small businesses looking to offer a health benefit that covers costs health insurance or HRAs may not cover, such as mental health expenses.
Learn the differences between a health stipend and a health reimbursement arrangement
Frequently asked questions
What can Texas employers legally disclose about their past employees?
Under Texas law, an employer may disclose why an employee left their company, including the reason for termination (if they were terminated), an employee’s job performance, and other assessment factors, such as effort, attendance, and attitude.
As long as the disclosure is written in good faith, they are free of any employer liability.
What is the basic rule of Texas employment law?
The basic rule of Texas employment law is employment at will. Employment at will means that short of an employment contract stating otherwise, either the employer or employee may change the terms of the employment relationship, or terminate the relationship entirely, with or without reason and with or without advance employer notice.
Do employers have to offer health insurance in Texas?
Small employers don’t have to offer health insurance. But employers that decide to provide it must make it equally available to all employees working 30 hours or more per week (not on a temporary or seasonal basis) and their dependents.
The federal government requires organizations with 50 or more full-time equivalent employees to provide health insurance that meets minimum essential coverage (MEC).
Looking to enhance your benefits package?
Speak with a PeopleKeep personalized benefits advisor who can help you answer questions, and help you select the right benefits package for your team.