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A Texas Appellate Court upheld a decision that a non-compete clause in two separate agreements was not enforceable against an ex-employee who resigned to work for a competitor. The court's decision is a good reminder that non-competes must be drafted with extreme scrutiny, especially those offering conditions subsequent clauses; otherwise a former employee may be able to ignore them and remain unpunishable. 

Jason Player was an IT manager working for East Texas Copy Systems, Inc. (also known as Copy Systems.) He sold his business to Copy Systems, who requested that he sign both a non-compete agreement and an asset purchase agreement, both of which barred him from competing with Copy Systems for a named period of time. The contracts also had an identical clause saying "i]f . . . Player's employment with [Copy Systems] is terminated prior to two years from the date of this Agreement [July 1, 2013] for any reason other than a for cause termination, this non-compete Agreement will no longer be binding." Player resigned from his position effective June 30, 2015 - one day before the two-year period ended - and immediately took a job with a competitor's IT department. Copy Systems promptly sent a cease and desist letter, claiming he was in violation of clauses found in both the asset purchase agreement and non-compete agreement.  

Texas Courts: Can the Non-Compete Clauses Be Thrown Out? 

Player filed suit against Copy Systems and requested that the court find that he no longer be forced to comply with the non-compete clauses that barred him from working for Copy System's competition. Copy System countersued, asking that the clauses be upheld and the court award them damages for breach of contract. At the hearing, the court granted Player's motion for summary judgement and denied Copy System's own motion for summary judgement. Copy System appealed the case. 

The Court Takes Issue with the Conditions Subsequent Clause 

Copy System's clause, which stated their non-compete was no longer valid if an employee resigned within the stated two-year period, was the main source of contention between the parties. While the company argued that it should be interpreted to mean the non-compete would still be in effect after employment was terminated, no matter if the employee were fired or left of his own volition, Player disagreed. In his opinion, the clause applied to termination, whether it was the company or the employee who terminated employment. Both the trial and appellate courts viewed this clause as a conditions subsequent clause, meaning the employee could be excused from his legal obligations upon the existence of the condition. Therefore, the appellate court sided with Player, saying the clause did not specify which party needed to terminate employment, and the trial court's decision was upheld. 

Talk to a Texas Business Lawyer 

The above case is a good example of how important it is for your business that your non-compete agreements be carefully worded. Copy System's failure to provide clarity to their one-sentence clause ultimately pushed the courts to rule against them. If you need help drafting non-competes or any other business agreements, you might want to speak to a seasoned Texas business attorney. Garcia-Martin & Martin, P.C., a business and employment law firm located in Sugar Land, TX, has spent years helping businesses draft solid agreements and contracts. Call today at 281-277-3066 or visit the website at www.mgmartinlaw.com.

Posted on Friday, February 17, 2017

A Texas court awarded damages to a former Department of Transportation (DOT) employee who claimed he had been fired because of his race. Jeffery Daniels had been an employee with the DOT for nearly 20 years when he was fired; he said his supervisor discriminated against him because he was African-American. He filed a lawsuit claiming the DOT had violated Title VII and Americans with Disability Act. The Texas court who heard his case agreed that Daniels was wrongfully discharged from his job. 

Discriminatory Treatment 

Before being fired, Daniels says he and other black DOT employees had to endure discriminatory remarks and treatment for years. When he or other employees complained of mistreatment, they were disciplined instead. Daniels and others were also forced to endure harassment, segregation from other work crews, and racially offensive or derogatory comments from coworkers and management alike. At one point, Daniels's supervisor leveled a finger at him and said, "Boy, I'll fire you." 

In 2013, Daniels began having health issues, and was eventually diagnosed with blocked arteries. His diagnosis meant he needed to go to several more doctor's appointments, which led to his supervisor giving him a difficult time for needing so much time off. At one point his supervisor tried to force him to work after hours - for no other reason, Daniels claims, than to punish him for taking time to go to the doctor. Shortly after that incident, Daniels was fired. 

DOT Claims Employee Was Insubordinate 

According to his supervisor and the DOT, Daniels was an insubordinate employee. Not only, they claim, did he neglect to tell them that he needed time off to see the doctor, but he was rude and difficult. The DOT stated that Daniels had a history of disciplinary actions that provided more than enough evidence to terminate Daniels according to the department's policy. The DOT filed both a Motion to Dismiss Daniels's claims and a Motion for Summary Judgement. The court both granted part of each motion and denied part; the magistrate felt there was enough evidence for a jury to hear discriminatory claims. A jury found that Daniels would not have been terminated but for his race, and awarded $370,000 for lost wages, mental suffering, and loss of enjoyment in life. He could stand to see more damages to cover attorney's fees, front emotional damages or front pay.  

Contact an Employment Law Attorney 

It can be difficult to file a lawsuit for wrongful termination, but it is not impossible, as long as you have a capable employment law attorney on your side. Garcia-Martin & Martin, P.C., a business and employment law firm in Sugar Land, Texas, does not tolerate businesses who terminate employees based on discrimination, and we are willing to fight for justice, no matter how big or powerful your former employer claims to be. If you have been discriminated against at your job, based on your race, sex, age, religion, or for any other reason, you have rights. Let us help you fight for them. Call us at 281-277-3066 to speak to one of our experienced employment law attorneys, or contact us online

Posted on Monday, January 30, 2017

While there are different types of business owners that have different approaches in how they
interact with their employees, there is one thing that all business owners should know: when
employee morale is high, you will see an increase in productivity and team work, and a decrease
in absenteeism and turnover. You may be thinking, "Okay, well that's nice, but how can I do that
without breaking the bank?" We actually have a fairly simple solution for you - adding specific
policies to your employee handbook. These policy additions to your business pay for themselves
over time and have huge impacts on your employees' morale; here's how:
 
1. Clear-cut policies make everyone's job easier - We all know the old adage: Man's
Greatest Fear is Fear of the Unknown. Naturally, being unsure of the expectations and
consequences at the workplace can compound daily anxiety, which eventually leads to
low morale. This is something which specific policies seek to correct. It is important to
outline certain policies for things such as: tardiness & attendance, grievance procedures,
dress code, and workplace interactions. This provides clarity and consistency for your
employees (and saves management countless hours of re-explaining expectations). It's a
win-win for everybody, as it lowers stress for everyone involved, while keeping morale
and productivity up.
 
2. Added perks are actually worth the added cost - You may be hesitant about adding
policies concerning perks for your employees, due to the perceived costs, especially if
you are a small business. However, adding small perks like a PTO policy actually
improves employee enthusiasm, which in turn will save you money. Not only is morale
increased, but unexpected absenteeism will be significantly reduced as well. These
types of policies encourage employees to schedule their much needed vacation days,
instead of calling-in sick (which we know throws a wrench in production). A simple policy
outlining these types of benefits can really make a difference.
 
3. Provide protection for you and your employees - Nowadays, most of us are aware that
discriminatory and harassing behavior is no longer accepted in the workplace (or society
for that matter). However, there is always "that guy" that didn't seem to get the memo. It's
very important to protect your employees from "that guy", and to make it clearly known
that it is not acceptable under the law and certainly not acceptable at your company. Your
employee handbook should have specific policies committed to anti-discrimination and
anti-harassment. Having these types of policies provides security to your employees, so
that they know they are safe when they come to work. These policies also help provide
protection for you and your company, if "that guy" causes you to become involved in an
Equal Employment Opportunity claim.
 
While adding these policies may have an initial cost, we hope you can now see that it is actually
an investment. It is an investment that increases employee morale, increases productivity,
reduces absenteeism, protects you & your employees, and improves the overall health of your
company. Call our experienced attorneys today to have custom policies added to your employee
handbook - it is well worth the investment.
 
 Garcia-Martin & Martin, P.C., is a business and employment law firm located in Sugar Land, Texas. Their attorneys work with businesses and individuals in all types of business and employment matters throughout the Houston, Texas area. They can be reached at 281-277-3066. You may also visit their website at www.mgmartinlaw.com for additional information and practice areas.
 
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Posted on Friday, January 27, 2017

Recently-shuttered Career Point College's operators are being sued by over 50 former students for breach of contract, among other issues. The students claim they were told by the college to take out high-interest loans to cover financial aid expenses. Some students were supposed to receive federal grant money from Career Point but claim the school never sent it to them. After students took out the loans, the college abruptly closed, leaving many students in debt and wondering what happened.

Career Point was a technical college focused on trades like nursing, IT, business, and cosmetology. Unfortunately, students had trouble with the school from the very start: several students were given different tuition rates and were told to apply for financial aid in amounts ranging from $19,000 up to $30,000. One student was given an actual tuition amount of $19,440, but was then told that the amount was really more of an estimate. 

Misappropriation of Federal Student Loan Funds 

These students were not informed that Career Point would retain control over grant money and would have the sole decision over who might receive these funds. Those who were expecting grant money never received it and were never told what the college did with their money. When the school closed, CEO and President Lawrence D. Earle sent an email informing the student body that three individual employees had acted on their own accord to misappropriate over $4,600,000 in federal loan funds. President Earle claimed the school had come up with a method to pay the money back, but the U.S. Department of Education has rejected the plan. Because the school was essentially broke, he said he had no choice but to close down. 

Students have continued to get the runaround from the college. They were told by Career Point that the college would assist them in finding other schools, and would provide all the necessary documents they needed to transfer credits so they could continue their education with another college. However, none of the students has gotten any paperwork, and those who try to call or go online find that Career Point has disconnected all phone lines and pared its website down to a mere skeleton of its former site, void of any pertinent information or links. The students who have filed the lawsuit against Career Point are seeking damages for "breach of contract, fraud, deceptive trade, misrepresentation, usury and conversion." The judge has granted a restraining order that stopped the college from actions such as destroying student information or hiding any assets. The school has also been ordered to provide students with the information they need to transfer credits to new colleges. 

Contact a Texas Business Law Attorney 

Garcia-Martin & Martin, P.C., is a business and employment law firm in Sugar Land, Texas. We provide education and representation on a number of business law topics, such as breach of contract, throughout the Houston metro area. To speak to one of our experienced business attorneys, call us at 281-277-3066 or contact us online .  

Posted on Friday, January 06, 2017
Judge Blocks Law Extending Overtime Pay

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A federal judge in Texas recently issued an emergency injunction against a rule extending overtime pay for certain workers. The Department of Labor (DOL), along with President Obama, issued a final rule that would increase overtime pay for more than 4 million U.S. workers within the first year it is implemented. U.S. District Judge Amos Mazzant heard arguments against the rule, which is supposed to be implemented by December 1st, and issued a ruling that will at least temporarily stop implementation. 

What the Overtime Rule Does

 The new rule will make the following adjustments to overtime pay:

 -  Raise the standard salary threshold in the lowest-wage region, from $455 to $913 per week, or $23,660 to $47,476 per year;

 -  Increase annual compensation for highly compensated employees (HCE) from $100,000 to $134,004 per year; and

 -  Include a provision that will automatically raise the salary threshold every three years. 

The rule would affect around 370,000 Texas workers

What This Means for Businesses 

Businesses and non-profit organizations oppose the bill because it will cause a significant increase in their employment costs. They would be required to pay time-and-a-half to employees who work more than 40 hours in a week and who also make less than $47,476 annually. Smaller businesses worry they will suffer immensely from the higher costs and be forced to demote employees from salary jobs to hourly positions, which would have a negative effect on employee morale. Texas Association of Business (TAB) President Chris Wallace said the rule did not take into consideration the varying effects it would have on different businesses. 

Two lawsuits were filed against the rule. The first was filed by over 50 business organizations (including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the TAB,) and the second was filed by 21 states (including Texas.) These suits, which were consolidated, claim the rule is unlawful, saying Congress never intended to set thresholds or automatic increases to these thresholds.  

Judge Mazzant agreed with the lawsuit and temporarily stopped the rule from being enacted on December 1st while he decides how to challenge the rul's requirements. DOL "strongly disagrees" with the judge's r ruling, saying that it has once again effectively stopped employees who work long overtime hours from getting fair pay. The Department has pointed to its history of raising the minimum wage, saying it uses three test methods that works together to calculate employee salary levels. DOL claims that it is working with Congress, attempting to help Congress enforce overtime exemptions for white collar workers. DOL is preparing to fight the judge's opposition, and is considering its legal options. 

Contact an Experienced Texas Employment Law Attorney 

Garcia-Martin & Martin, P.C., is a business and employment law firm in Sugar Land, Texas. We offer a variety of employment law services for business and employees, including advice on noncompetes, overtime claims, severance packages, discrimination in the workplace, and much more. We have represented many businesses in the Houston metro area. For help with your employment law matter, call us today at 281-277-3066 or contact us online.


Posted on Friday, December 16, 2016

It's oil giant vs. oil giant: Marathon Petroleum is suing BP, alleging they breached a contract signed in 2012. Marathon purchased a Texas City oil refinery and three product terminals from BP, who signed a contract wherein they agreed to be responsible for the continue maintenance on the refinery until Marathon took it over. Marathon claims BP did not maintain the facility, and as a result, both the refinery and the terminals are violating several environmental regulations. 

The oil refinery was the site of a 2005 explosion that killed 15 people and injured nearly 200 more. Over the next seven years, BP received fines from OSHA totaling $84.6 million for their failure to cooperate with various safety rules following the investigations into the explosion. 

In 2010, BP began a project to process safety information for nearly 3,800 pressure vessels in the refinery, but seemed to stop all work on the project after documenting only 555 pressure vessels. The oil conglomerate is also being accused of avoiding basic maintenance and repairs on the equipment and facilities, resulting in neglect of many industry safety regulations. Lastly, BP had been planning a complete overhaul of an aromatics recovery unit before the sale, but after the sale was complete, they abandoned these plans. 

On top of the purchases, the two companies had negotiated a fuel station services agreement (FSSA,) where BP agreed to provide certain services to Marathon retail establishments. In the FSSA, Marathon agreed to pay BP $6 million for the first three contract years and then $1.5 million for each quarter of the fourth contract year. Marathon has since sent a letter to BP requesting termination of this contract, citing a section that stated termination could be pursued "if the number of retail locations falls to zero".

BP's attorney views Marathon's request as an attempt to reopen negotiations on the contract wherein they had purchased the oil refinery. In response to the termination letter, BP said Marathon's reaction was premature, and continued to send invoices for the contract year fees, even after the number of fuel stations they serviced did fall to zero. 

In light of the breach of contract accusation, Marathon is seeking damages plus interest and attorney's fees. 

Breaches of Contract

 Business often find themselves in disputes over contracts. These disputes can be extremely complex, requiring careful, detailed litigation in order to reach a solution. If you find that a business you contracted with has breached the terms of the contract, you may want to ask a seasoned attorney to review your matter. A business attorney who has negotiated various contract breaches either in court or through settlement agreements outside of the courtroom can advise you on how to move forward with your case. 

How a Texas Business Lawyer Can Help 

Garcia-Martin & Martin, P.C., is a business and employment law firm in Sugar Land, Texas. Our attorneys have extensive experience in business litigation matters such as contract breaches; in the past, we have represented Fortune 500 companies in high profile cases. We have helped numerous clients in the Houston metro area; we may be able to help with your matter, too.

Posted on Friday, December 09, 2016
Recently, a Texas judge ruled a non-compete authored by Cameron International Corporation was unenforceable due to its overbroad language. Steven Abbiss was an executive with Cameron and worked for the company for 25 years before being hired by its direct competitor, FMC Technologies Singapore Pte Ltd.  Cameron sued Abbiss for allegedly violating the non-compete agreements he had signed in exchange for company stock and access to Cameron's confidential information. 
 
U.S. District Judge Nancy Atlas, who presided over the case, ruled that Cameron's non-compete was too restrictive because it prohibited Mr. Abbiss from doing business with Cameron customers with whom he had no "material contact" while employed with Cameron, and it also prevented him from working with any business that was or could become a competitor of Cameron. Judge Atlas said that the confining language of the non-compete would effectively bar Mr. Abbiss from obtaining employment from any oil and gas company. 
 
Judge Atlas was not completely unsympathetic to Cameron's plight, noting that the company had a "legitimate business interest" in protecting its confidential information. The judge informed Cameron that they could still enforce the non-compete against Mr. Abbiss, provided they amended the covenants in the agreement so that they could be enforceable under the necessary state laws.

 How to Present an Enforceable Non-Compete Agreement 

At one time, Texas law had ruled out many non-competes on the grounds that they couldn't be enforced if their restrictions on competitors limited the ability or legal right of companies to engage in a common business. However, the state eventually passed laws allowing non-competes, as long as they met the following rules: 

  • The non-compete is part of an enforceable contract
  • The non-compete has reasonable guidelines pertaining to:

1.  The time period in which it may be enforced (it cannot be unusually long);

2.  The physical area it covers (for example, the business cannot include companies that are located so far away that they service completely different customers and can't really be considered competitors);

3.   The extent of duties performed (in Cameron's case, Judge Atlas felt the language in their non-compete was so restricting that it wouldn't allow Mr. Abbiss to employ the same janitorial company as his past employer; she didn't consider this a "legitimate business interest" that Cameron needed to protect.) 

Texas courts would rather promote competition, not hinder it, so non-competes that may prohibit competition need to be carefully worded.  The company will need to show both how not enforcing the non-compete would hurt its business, and how enforcing the non-compete would not cause undue the employee to be unable to do his or her job to the fullest extent and not encumber his or her ability to earn a living. 

Contact a Texas Business Lawyer 

Non-competes are often considered necessary to many employers. They need to be certain that their confidential information and trade secrets will be protected, especially if their employees seek a new job through a competing company. But non-competes can be tricky in that they must be worded so that they will be enforceable in court. Garcia-Martin & Martin, P.C., a business and employment law firm located in Sugar Land, TX, has had years of experience drafting non-competes and practicing in other areas of business law. Reach out to us today for help. 

Posted on Thursday, November 10, 2016
Enforcing non-compete agreements can be quite challenging considering the rapid landscape change in this area of law in Texas. The Texas Supreme court at one time ruled that all non-competes, primarily designed to limit competition restrict a party's ability or right to engage in a common business, were unenforceable. But the Texas legislature passed legislation shortly thereafter, making non-compete agreements enforceable, should they meet the following requirements:
  1. They are ancillary to (related to) or part of an otherwise enforceable agreement at the time the agreement is made;
  2. They have reasonable limitations as to time, geographical area and scope of activity to be restrained;
  3. They are reasonable and do not impose a greater restraint than is necessary to protect the goodwill or other business interest of the promisee (the employer).
In common terms "otherwise enforceable" in the employer-employee relationship generally means that the employer promises to give the employee trade secrets, confidential information or specialized training.

Reasonable limitations are also applicable on a case-by-case basis. For example, an employer may limit an employee from operating in a similar field for a certain period of time within a particular geographical area where the employee currently interacts with customers, clients and suppliers. If an employer is overly broad with their non-compete terms, a court may find that the non-compete agreement is unenforceable, or revise the portions that are overly broad.

Garcia-Martin & Martin, P.C., is a business and employment law firm located in Sugar Land, Texas. Their attorneys work with businesses and individuals in all types of business and employment matters throughout the Houston, Texas area. They can be reached at 281-277-3066. You may also visit their website at www.mgmartinlaw.com for additional information and practice areas.
Posted on Friday, July 15, 2016
If you've started a Houston business, chances are you've encountered one of the following issues or made one of these mistakes. The good news is, it may not be to late to fix these issues, but they first must be identified and then properly and promptly addressed.

Choosing a Copyrighted Name

Starting a Houston business is an exciting process. Yet after working hard on developing a brand and marketing materials, have you thought about whether or not someone else may be using that name, and you might be infringing on that name? Imagine the cost, personal headache, and heavy use of company resources to redo everything that bears the infringing name. Not to mention, starting your public awareness back at zero. Even worse, what if you were taken to court and required to pay costly fees and a settlement to the other party? Much of this can be avoided by doing some research to make sure the name you choose isn't the same or nearly the same as another entity on file with the office of the secretary of state. The best practice to avoid wasting time is to come up with a short list of favorite names, give them to a business attorney and have them look them up in order of your preference. Having more than one option can speed up the entire process of securing a unique final selection.

Hiring Contract Workers Instead of Employees

For many years, business owners have been attracted to the idea of hiring independent contractors instead of employees. Some of the benefits of hiring contract labor include limitation and ease of termination of employment as well as lower tax liabilities. But there are several statements that must be true about the nature of their job duties and functions in order to properly classify and worker as a contractor. Employers who don't properly classify their employees can end up facing lawsuits, responding to the IRS, or answering to another state or federal agency. Furthermore, whether your workers can be classified as contract employees or regular employees, you'll need to consider drafting solid contracts that protect your businesses trade secrets and business interests.

Failing to Adequately Insure Your Business

Litigation can happen even to the best run business. One of the benefits of insurance, particularly general and professional liability insurance, is coverage for some claims. If you are leasing an office space, most leasing companies require you to maintain a minimum level of general liability insurance. For your own sake and peace of mind do some due diligence and research, and purchase renters and property insurance. There are too many cases, such as fire, theft, flood and water damage that can arise, the effect of which could render you unable to afford to replace your expensive equipment and assets that are necessary to conduct your business.

Having a Shareholder Agreement

As companies grow, so do their values and the need for shareholders to protect against disability, divorce, and/or death. You have to ask yourself, "If a shareholder dies, do I really want to be in business with the member's spouse, or even a competitor?" As a general rule, shareholders, through an agreement, can choose to allow shares to be transferable or restricted to the original owners. A shareholder agreement can provide who can and cannot become a company shareholder/owner. This type of agreement also sets up a general sale procedure in the event a shareholder would like to sell his or her shares to another party or back to the company.

Not Keeping Business Records

It's important, for many reasons, including IRS, employment, business management and financial forecasting to thoroughly document your business operations. Expenses must be kept, filed, and regularly reviewed for inaccuracies. Small inaccuracies, left unnoticed and unaddressed, can be costly to a business in the long run. Should you ever want to sell your business, any potential buyer is going to want to review your financial records and your business processes. Additionally, poor documentation can often be a limiting factor to a business' potential scalability.

Garcia-Martin & Martin, P.C., is a business and employment law firm located in Sugar Land, Texas. Their attorneys work with businesses and individuals in all types of business and employment matters throughout the Houston, Texas area. They can be reached at 281-277-3066. You may also visit their website at www.mgmartinlaw.com for additional information and practice areas.

Posted on Friday, June 17, 2016

Major Change in Overtime Pay Exemption

The definition of who is exempt from overtime pay is about to change, quite dramatically. Effective December 1, 2016, the threshold for those who are exempt from overtime wages more than doubles from $455 per week to $913 per week. President Obama announced his final ruling in mid May of this year, automatically extending overtime protection to more than 4 million Americans within the first year of the rule taking effect. As an employer, you may share in the same sentiment as the President, to ensure fair compensation for every worker. But what does this mean for you, the business owner? Well here are several takeaways/provisions from this ruling.

  1. Certain previously exempt employees (i.e. Managers and Professionals) must now be paid at least $913 per week (or $47,476 per year) to be exempt from overtime.
  2. Non Discretionary Bonuses and incentive payments can now satisfy up to 10% of the standard salary level. For employers to count a bonus or incentive payment towards a salary level, they will be required to make such payments quarterly, at a minimum. Yet, it does allow an employer to make a "catch up" payment. Because employers are already permitted to fulfill almost two-thirds of the total annual compensation requirement with commissions, non-discretionary and discretionary payments, the Department of Labor deemed using more than 10% of these commission and additional payments inappropriate.
  3. The Department of Labor will increase the salary threshold every three years. Based on current projections, the salary threshold is expected to rise to more than $51,000.
  4. This rule extends overtime protections to more than 4 million workers who are not currently eligible under federal law.
  5. This rule does not change the duties test for any exemption.
Do you know if your business meets the minimum requirements for employee compensation and whether your salaried employees will be exempt from overtime pay? You probably need to also take a look at all of your employees to get a clear picture of who might be hourly and who is considered salary. Ultimately, however, you'll need to be compliant with this ruling, on or before December 1. Having an experienced employment attorney to navigate you through this new ruling, can save you the headache dealing with a time consuming and expensive lawsuit. It's always better, and almost always less expensive, to plan ahead and mitigate your business liability by being in compliance than to wait until litigation is knocking at your door.

Garcia-Martin & Martin, P.C., is a business and employment law firm located in Sugar Land, Texas. Their attorneys work with businesses and individuals in all types of business and employment matters throughout the Houston, Texas area. They can be reached at 281-277-3066. You may also visit their website at www.mgmartinlaw.com for additional information and practice areas.
Posted on Friday, May 13, 2016


With gas prices at record lows, several Texas oil and gas companies continue to lay off workers at alarming rates. As a city known for its oil, gas and petrochemical industries - Houston is no exception. In fact, employment lawyers are all reporting an uptick in lawsuits revolving around back wages, unpaid overtime, and even discrimination. Adding to the mess is the status of independent contractors - who seem to be prime victims since they do not directly work for these businesses.

According to data compiled by Androvett Legal Media, employment complaints also reached all-time highs in 2015. No truer is then in the Southern and Western districts of Texas, which are synonymous with oil fields, refineries, and gas manufacturing plants. Industry experts believe that if the current labor lawsuits continue to rise - 2016 may shatter all records in Texas for employment related lawsuits.

As the energy capital of the nation, Houston has seen over 515 Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) cases filed in 2015. This is a dramatic 85 percent increase from 2010 - making the city the epicenter for oil and gas employment lawsuits. Our law firm is on the pulse of these soaring lawsuits - and are committed to helping employers and employees that need timely and effectiveand proactive legal representation. With years of extensive industry experience, we assist employers and employees in the following areas:

  • Overtime claims.
  • Non-competes.
  • Severance Agreements.
  • Discrimination claims.
  • Workplace investigations and audits
  • Employment contracts.
  • Independent contractor vs. employee status.

With employment litigation increasing in the oil and gas industries, you need an experienced legal team on your side. From overtime claims to severance agreements, the law offices of Garcia-Martin & Martin, P.C. handles all types of employment matters. Contact us today to schedule a consultation.

281-277-3066 or on-line at www.mgmartinlaw.com

Posted on Wednesday, April 13, 2016


Employment laws have gone through multiple changes through the years and, thankfully there are various law firms today aim at preserving their rights. Business and employment law attorneys have to do a lot of work to maintain the pace with these updates, for both the employer and the employee. 2014 saw 8,035 charges in the Texas for employee discrimination cases. This accounts for almost 9% of the total discrimination charges that were filed in the US. Quite a number of law suits favoring the employers have also become prevalent. Texas employee laws offer rights to employees, but employers have rights as well.

Law suits handled at its best

From business formation to a breach of contract, handling business law issues is a piece of cake only for a few highly experienced law firms. Covering the Houston TX, Stafford TX, and Sugar Land TX areas, these firms have handled various famous business law suits as well as employee law suits. Today, not just employees, but employers get substantial protection from wrongful litigation, claims on employers, breach of policies, or frivolous lawsuits. Many businesses and employees seek a law firm to provide a good representation to fight for their employer/employee benefits.

Get competent legal representation with The Law Firm of Garcia Martin & Martin

The law firm of Garcia Martin & Martin has over experience of about 25 years of combined experience in handling business and employee law suits. Our Business attorney team provides legal assistance, through skilled business negotiations, sharp presentation skills, persuasive case arguments, and relentless pursuit of justice. Some common issues we encounter include employment, overtime wages. HR employment, or a breach of employee handbook.

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Posted on Thursday, June 18, 2015


Planning, executing and launching a startup is always an immensely challenging and exciting experience. When you are involved in such a process, it is always best to ensure that everything that is required is being done correctly. To cover the legal side of things and to avoid issues in future, the one thing that your business partnership needs is an operating agreement. The right operating agreement ensures that things go smoothly on a daily basis and even during emergencies and unforeseen situations, thus it is recommended that you contact a Houston business attorney for assistance. Few people start a partnership thinking there will be problems or count on conflict down the road. But just like many things in life, situations and circumstances come up that we don't anticipate and/or prepare for.

Protect your business with a Partnership Operating Agreement

An operating agreement essentially lays out clearly defined responsibilities, duties and rights and contains provisions for running the business both in usual and unusual situations. Furthermore, it also contains important nuances like decision-making burdens, liabilities, capital contribution and salaries, and emergency measures regarding to death or dissolution. Needless to say, having a partnership agreements lawyer is important if you want to make things run clearly and be written out on paper.

When you are looking at Houston business law firms to consider a business attorney in Houston, consider the Law Firm of Garcia-Martin and Martin. With decades of experience in these matters, these Stafford TX business lawyers can advise and help you navigate the partnership formation process. Consider a Houston business lawyer who can help you form an operating agreement to help your business in the long run.

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Posted on Saturday, May 16, 2015

Be Prepared Beforehand - Legal Pitfalls To Avoid With Employees

You'd be surprised by the number of legal red flags businesses raise when it comes to employment and employee-related matters. While running a business, foreseeing legal problems and pitfalls is a vital for a business and something that our Houston employment law firm, has been doing for many years. Because we practice in business and employment law, we are certainly familiar handling legal shortcomings with business and employees. In fact, we have some tips that allow you to check for legal pitfalls before they become genuine problems.

Violating Wage Hour Laws

Often, when money is tied up or a company has just started out, it tends to ignore the payment of overtime wages. Employees who fall under the Fair Labor Standards Act are entitled to overtime pay. There is a wealth of information on the Fair Standards Labor Act located on the Department of Labor Website.

Lack of Workplace Policies

An Employee Handbook contains a list of company policies and procedures to help employees understand what is expected of them. Creating a handbook isn't a priority for many businesses, but it's still very important. The procedures and policies in the handbook can actually help a company in legal situations with employees. For example, a company's policy regarding discrimination and sexual harassment states the steps that need to be taken by an employee subject to any kind of sexual harassment or discrimination at the workplace. They also layout standards for employee behavior, work standards and appearance, among others. A good handbook also clearly defines a procedure for filing a complaint against a fellow employee or superior. Having these policies in place and help decrease the legal headache that comes during the litigation process. Finally, having clear communication to employees, about what's expected of them, minimizes misunderstanding and can help set the standard for judging employee performance.

Proper Worker Classification

The people you hire need to be properly classified as full-time employees, part-time employees, interns, independent contractors, consultants and so on. Each classification will depend upon federal and state wage hour laws that consider certain factors - the nature of the job, the work the person does for other companies, the relationship the employee has with the company and control the firm has over the employee - and not as per your choosing. So employing a person as a part-time worker, when his/her actual job involves doing full-time work can put the company at risk.

With over 25 years experience, The Law Firm of Garcia-Martin & Martin has been serving clients in Houston TX, Stafford TX and Sugar Land TX clients, who are in need of an employment attorney or business attorney. So if you're looking for a Houston law firm, call today for your appointment. 281-277-3066.

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Posted on Thursday, April 16, 2015

Find the Right Houston Business Lawyer to Avoid Problems with your Startup

Starting a business can seem intimidating at first glance. The nuances involved are many in number and complex in nature. Business formation is something that you need to take with great care and consideration, especially when it comes to understanding and making provisions for the number of concerned legalities. If you want to avoid problems and pitfalls and have big dreams for your business concept, consider engaging the services of a business lawyer in Houston.

Taking care of Business

A startup is always a source of excitement- you get to create a business from the ground up, exactly the way you have envisioned it. Some people say it is akin to having a child, The many legal nuances of a new business involve drawing up of important legal documents like company agreements and operating agreements. You also need check and ensure that all your processes, bookkeeping and products remain in accordance with local and national law, and that you have the right partnership agreements. Having a Houston business lawyer in your corner can help smooth out the business formation and protects your business from running into problems down the line.

Doing business with a firm like the Law Firm of Garcia-Martin and Martin gives you access to a group pf Houston business attorneys, with over 25 year of combined experience in helping businesses like yours. You probably want to ensure that your business risk remains low, so that you can go about developing your business in peace without having to worry about problems.  A consultation is a call away. 281-277-3066.

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Posted on Friday, March 13, 2015

Everyone's heard of Boss Appreciation Day, but there aren't as many who are familiar with Employee Appreciation Day and that needs to end immediately. If you let the 6th pass you by without any particular notice, rectify your mistake by marking the occasion before the end of the month!If you aren't sure where to begin, consider a few of these great ideas to give your employees the gift of appreciation this month:

  • The Getaway: A getaway is a great way to boost morale, improve employee relations, and generate synergy amongst your team members. Trip to a tropical island not really in the budget for this year? Take advantage of your knowledge of local venues and hot spots to maximize your budget with a fabulous staycation weekend for your employees that they'll never forget.
  • The Gift of Tech: Work can be hard and stressful. Follow the example of a couple of up and coming startups (with rigorous, stressful workloads) and give your employees useful new tech. For example, some companies gifted employees with a Fitbit Charge, a useful gadget for employees in high stress jobs that reminds them to stay healthy and active, especially during high stress times. This is a win-win because employers need their employees to stay healthy. Unhealthy employees are not happy or productive.
  • Listening, a Gift in Itself: Listen to employee requests and respond whenever possible. For instance, experts are now suggesting that "sitting" at a desk all day is not only uncomfortable for many workers, but can be bad for their health. This has led to the mainstreaming of "standing" desks. Offer your employees the option of sitting or standing at their desks all day with desks that can convert between the two heights to accommodate their personal preference. There's nothing that says you care like listening and responding to practical suggestions.

Have some great ideas of your own? Share them with us! We'd love to hear about it.

Posted on Sunday, March 01, 2015
Most of us are aware of the severance agreement, but many see it as having one-sided benefits. When the severance agreement is handled correctly, it actually provides substantial benefits to both the employer and the employee.Benefits of the Severance Agreement for Employers and Employees:
  • Employees get weeks/months or a specified amount of continued pay in order to cover the time between jobs or additional schooling, etc.
  • Employers can obtain a signed release for future legal claims as a part of the severance package.
Employers can generate good will amongst their current employees leaving them with a sense of stability knowing that if layoffs DO occur, they won't be pushed out the door in the cold without a safety net to cover them during the transition to another job.Severance agreements are a voluntary contract between two parties put in place when terminating the employee/employer relationship. They aren't meant to put the employee at a disadvantage. They also aren't intended to hurt the employer. Treat them as a contract for moving forward post employment. Get in touch for additional information on generating severance agreements that are beneficial for all parties.
Posted on Sunday, March 01, 2015
It's not coincidence that our tip of the month discusses severance agreements. If you live in the area you are already well aware, but we've been seeing a lot of mass layouts here in Texas due to the decreasing prices of oil and gas. The mass layoffs aren't limited to oil companies, but the companies that support them. As a result of the mass layoffs, we've found our opportunities to advise and counsel a lot of former employees drastically increasing. Many are interested in information regarding their severance agreements (what their obligations are, explanations of terms and conditions, what they're giving up by signing, etc.), but we have also been able to help many by referring them to financial planning services, career building resources, and even advising about transitions for those starting or thinking about starting their own business. These discussions often lead to business planning and the steps ahead as they plan their next career move.We've still got mixed feelings about going to the gas pump because, while no one likes to pay high prices for gas, we know that a lot of good people are losing their jobs as a result of the lower gas prices. It's sad to continue to hear about and see the effects of the layoffs, but it feels good to be able to take an active part in helping clients recover from such a change.
Posted on Sunday, March 01, 2015

Managing legal aspects of a small business here in Houston TX or Stafford TX requires good basic knowledge about prevalent business law. Everyday business operations may require familiarity with the powers of a business attorney. Given below are some useful tips from The Law Firm of Garcia-Martin & Martin, a Houston Business Law firm that has more than 25 years combined experienced practicing as business attorneys and business lawyers in Houston.

  • Selecting correct business structure
    • The correct business structure goes a long way in safeguarding your company from possible litigation and also offers protection against the same. If you approach a lawyer in here in Houston, they will advise you to opt for business structures like partnerships, limited liability companies and corporations. These can be tax efficient and provide protection against lawsuits and liability claims.
  • Ensuring protection from lawsuits
    • Small business owners can stay protected from lawsuits by being informed about the Lawsuit Abuse Reduction Act. A business attorney can mitigate false claims meant only to gain monetary benefit from businesses in Sugar Land TX and other areas.
  • Adhering to the Labor Laws
    • Small business owners can protect themselves from possible litigation from employees by fairly practicing labor laws. By following the Fair Labor Standards Act, your Houston TX businessman can be in compliance and lower the risk of costly litigation.
  • Staying protected with insurance
    • By ensuring that your small business in Houston TX is properly insured, you can rest easier at night knowing that you have a monetary safeguard and support in case of litigation. Many businesses opt for insurance protection on the company's building structure, its machinery and its employees who come daily to the office premises for a fixed time period and general liability insurance which can cover your business, partners, and employees if you get sued for actions related to your business.

It's always recommended to prepare your business with the right safeguards to avoid potential costly future pitfalls. If you are facing employee or business related issues, we would love to provide you with a consultation, to guide you during your situation.

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Posted on Thursday, February 12, 2015

As many employment law firms here in Houston would corroborate, every year, a huge number of employment disputes come to surface because of negligence on the part of employers. These companies often violate the employment laws unintentionally and overlook the significance of consulting a suitable employment attorney. Today we look at the most common mistakes that are being made by Houston TX based business firms, so that you can be aware of these.

  • Neglecting importance of employee and manager training
    • When business firms completely neglect the employee and manager training in areas like employment laws, it becomes obvious that a big loophole is left vulnerable to be exploited by some employee.
  • Illegal employee termination and delay in filing reports
    • Employers often neglect employment laws and move towards employee termination without receiving input from their concerned HR departments. Denying lawful leaves without pay and terminating an employee without factual basis are most common mistakes made by Houston based employers.
  • Denying accommodation to disabled employee and mismanaged communication
    • Employers who are not open to proper employee communication and deny accommodation facilities to their disabled employees become the prime target of lawsuits. A Houston based law firm can help such employers in managing their employee interaction as per the law.
  • Outdated employee handbook
    • This is another factor that leaves the entire organization vulnerable to claims of harassment or discrimination. You can enlist the help of a trustworthy Attorney in Sugar Land TX to redress the false claims.

Being an employer, your day to day responsibilities include taking time to review the employee handbook and avoid illegal practice of not paying overtime wages to your employees. Hiring a employment lawyer in Houston can save you from the costly legal trouble later on. Connect with the Law firm of Garcia-Martin & Martin that has experienced business attorney and employment lawyers for areas in Houston including Stafford TX and Sugar Land TX.

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Posted on Wednesday, January 14, 2015

 

In Houston, employers often run into trouble regarding employee compensation. Dissatisfied employees can sometimes protest and drag their employers to consumer courts if there is any instance of lack of clarity in total working hours and the resultant compensation. As an employer, you need to safeguard your business against such negative publicity or legal hassles. The services of an employment lawyer in Houston can be very critical in this regard. A talented employment attorney is well versed in employment law and can give you invaluable advice regarding how to avoid lawsuits and disputes arising from the work hours clocked by employees at your company.

Documenting Work Hours

An employment attorney will tell you, many employee disputes arise from irregularities in keeping records in work hours. When that happens, employees who think they are entitled to overtime wages but do not receive them can become disgruntled and start a lawsuit. To avoid such occurrences, you need to carefully document the hours logged by every employee down to the last minute. With a reliable record of employee work hours that you can easily reference at any time, you can stay on top of wage disbursal and avoid any problems. Here are a few things your employment lawyer in Houston might advise you to do -

  • Make your compensation policy, wage structure, attendance policy and related penalties and practices clearly featured on your employee handbook to avoid complications and misunderstandings.
  • Also, include, in the employee handbook, all your policies regarding overtime work and the corresponding overtime wages that would be due to employees.
  • Alert the people you have in HR employment to wage and attendance related issues before they start to become serious, and attempt to reach at amicable solutions during their rudimentary stages.
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Posted on Thursday, December 11, 2014

For small business, entering into a partnership is a great way to expand corporate horizons, pool in collective resources and manpower and strive together towards a common business objective. Partnership agreements benefit businesses and in most cases, push businesses towards faster and more conclusive fulfillment of business goals. When you are considering partnering up with another business, person, or entity, there are a number of legal intricacies involved and a lot of factors come into play in the decision making phase. For one thing, you should speak to a business attorney that is well versed in the complex aspects of business law to give you advice. Hiring a lawyer from a reputed Houston law firm can solve your problem and put you in a good position to facilitate your small business partner agreement.

Facilitating your Small Business Partner Agreement

To ensure that your small business partner agreement commences smoothly, you need to start off by finding the right business partner with similar business goals, similar values and similar work ethics. Once you have found a good match, consult with your Houston TX business attorney before finalizing the terms of the partnership. Usual partnership terms include -

  • Name - Selecting a lasting and appealing name for the partnership.

  • Contributions - There needs to be a clear, written down decision at the very beginning about which part of the partnership contributes what to the business. Be it profit-sharing, cash, manpower, assets, property or services, you need to put it down in the agreement.

  • Allocation - Whether the business incurs losses or profits, these need to be distributed among the parties forming the partnership. The terms of allocation need to be in the agreement.

  • Authority and Decision Making - The important task of making relevant decisions and assuming positions of authority in the partnership need to be clearly delineated in the agreement. For all these factors, the advice of your business attorney is invaluable.

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Posted on Friday, December 05, 2014

Tips for Houston Business Owners Creating an Employee Handbook

A secret to having a profitable and growing business is a workforce of satisfied and high performance employees. To keep employees happy and prevent disengagement with their responsibilities, it is crucial for every business to facilitate easy and fluid communication with every employee, telling them about your expectations clearly and outlining your policies in a way that is easy to comprehend. In order to achieve this, a comprehensive employee handbook goes a long way.

While you are creating an employee handbook, it is important that you have an experienced employment attorney at your side with valuable advice regarding what to include. Hiring an employment lawyer in Houston can help you build the perfect employee handbook which does not leave anything out and opens the right channels of communication with your employees.

Employee Handbooks - What to Include

As any employment lawyer will vouch, a good employment handbook achieves multiple purposes and many levels - it clearly outlines your policies for your employees, includes information about workplace standards and conduct, and also features agreements like non-disclosure or data confidentiality. With the help of your employment attorney you need to cover the following critical areas in your organization's employee handbook -

  • Protection of sensitive business information. Handbooks can contain agreements outlining conflicts of interest and non-disclosure agreements.
  • Safeguarding the company against lawsuits and creating a balanced, diverse employee pool. You can include your employment policies, including those about anti-discrimination measures, harassment and disability acts.
  • Presence of a clear breakup of the compensation structure in the handbook, including all necessary deductions.
  • Clear outline of work schedules, employment perks, responsibilities and expectations.
  • Employee information about the standards of conduct and behavior they are expected to maintain at the workplace.
  • Outline of safety and security measures at the workplace.
  • Any legal information that is relevant, timely and legally required, including employment laws, labor laws, eligibility criteria, unions and grounds for termination.
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Posted on Friday, November 14, 2014

Our Houston Employment Law Firm September - October Calendar

9/1 -- Firm Holiday
9/3 -- Texana Advisory Board
9/8 -- Lionel's Birthday
9/9 --Access Health Board Meeting
9/15 -- Fundraiser forDistrict Clerk, Annie Elliott
9/16 --Taste of Mexico, benefitting Texana
9/17 -- Fundraiser for CLL#1,Chris Morales
9/23 -- Court Hearing
9/24 --Fort Bend Bar Association, Bench Bar Social
9/25 --Central Fort Bend Chamber Board Meeting
9/25 -- Fort Bend Bar Association, CLE Lunch
9/25 --Houston Hispanic Chamber, Elected Officials Reception
10/1 -- Court Hearing
10/6 -- Court Hearing
10/7 -- Court Hearing
10/8 -- Court Hearing
10/15 -- Chamber Executive Committee Meeting


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Posted on Saturday, October 25, 2014
This past month a client that we have been working with was able to expand from one to three locations. It is really great to be a part of our client's growth and success. It is one of the benchmarks of success for any business owner and the opportunity we have to join in celebrating our clients' successes always reminds us why we love our work.
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Posted on Saturday, October 25, 2014

Employment Attorneys Help Employers Circumvent Employment Lawsuits

Employment lawsuits are always something businesses would do well to avoid. While most businesses are taking active measures to encourage diversity and good practices when it comes to employment procedures, even a one-off case employment lawsuit can be damaging to its reputation. As a business owner and employer, you would not want to find yourself on the wrong end of a lawsuit involving harassment or overtime wages. To prevent these lawsuits, one of the best ways is to engage the services of an employment lawyer in Houston. Hiring an employment attorney is a great safeguard against potential lawsuits and holds you in good standing if such a lawsuit does surface.

Employment Lawsuits and Employment Attorneys

It is fairly common nowadays for disgruntled employees to sue their employers for a variety of different reasons, which might include issues like discrimination, wages and harassment. When you choose to hire an attorney experienced in employment law in Houston TX, you are basically paying for the experience that a trained lawyer has in handling employment lawsuit cases and the deep insight they possess about legal intricacies and nuances. Not only would your employment attorney be with you if you do have the misfortune to run into an employment lawsuit, you can also get practical advice on how to prevent these cases from ever happening. Valuable advice that you can get from an employment lawyer in Houston include -

  • Providing employees with updated employee handbooks.
  • Paying employees for the entire amount of hours they have put in, including overtime wages.
  • Understanding the different legal intricacies regarding employment laws in your locality and being aware of any important changes in the law in recent times.
  • Dealing with employee grievances in a proactive and smart manner so as to avoid the possibility of impending lawsuits.
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Posted on Wednesday, October 15, 2014
Congratulations are in order! H-Texas Magazine chose Melissa as the 2014 Houston Top Lawyer in Labor and Employment Law. We are so proud of her and the work she is doing to help the businesses of Houston, Stafford TX, Richmond TX, Rosenberg, Sugar Land, Missouri City, and surrounding areas with their employment and labor needs. Read the Press Release here. For more information about the award, check out H Texas Magazine.
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Posted on Thursday, September 25, 2014

Don't Assume Overtime is Unnecessary for Salaried Employees

Business Tip from a Houston Employment AttorneyTime and time again, we talk with experienced business owners who make big mistakes when it comes to deciding whether someone is entitled to minimum wage or overtime under the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). One of the most common mistakes that employers make is assuming that they don't need to pay overtime to salaried employees. Just because an employee is paid a salary doesn't mean they aren't entitled to overtime compensation. To truly determine if an employee qualifies for overtime pay, they need be classified as exempt or non-exempt. Determining whether or not your employee should be classified as exempt or non-exempt is the tricky part. Find out more about classification criteria read the 5 most common mistakes employers make regarding minimum wage and overtime pay

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Posted on Friday, July 25, 2014

Small businesses might need legal counsel from time to time when it comes to the legalities involved in business matters. Every Houston business needs the services of a good Houston lawyer, and the importance of hiring a Houston business attorney should never be downplayed. In Houston TX, there is a definite need for small businesses to get good quality legal help for a wide variety of legal issues. During the course of operations in a small business, there are a number of different facets and business processes that involve some kind of law or legal intricacy. In these cases, it is always useful to have a  experienced business lawyer at hand for advice and guidance.

Why Small Businesses Need a Business Attorney

Many small businesses make the mistake of not hiring a business attorney until it is too late. Hiring a business lawyer such as the ones from the Law Firm of Garcia-Martin & Martin, P.C. for your growing business gives you helps in the offering of the legal advice in the face of different kinds of business situations. It can also have a number of intangible benefits, especially if you hire a lawyer from a firm with experience in business law. Here are a few key areas where a business attorney might come in handy for your small business -

  1. Contracts - Businesses routinely need to draw different kinds of contracts, and all of them are legally binding documents. If you have a lawyer who understands your business properly, drafting contracts, which are effective and clear, is sure to become much easier. A lawyer can also provide assistance when someone else offers you a contract to sign.
  2. Organization and Business Formation - You need the correct structural foundation for your business to flourish. Your business lawyer in Sugar Land TX can guide you regarding this matter and help you figure out the best structural framework like a corporation or limited liability company that would be a fit for your business.
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Posted on Thursday, June 12, 2014
dealing with all kinds of employment problems. With our experienced employment attorneys by your side, we will guide you through the complex and growing employment law landscape. As a leading Houston employment law firm, we have wide-encompassing experience coming up with effective and sound legal solutions to employment related disputes. Whether it is claim of wrongful termination, overtime wages, severance, non-competes, or any other employment law related issue, our attorneys stay current with all the recent laws and regulations. Our Houston TX attorneys are have worked for some of the largest law firms. Our employment lawyers in Houston will work to ensure that you do not waste precious resources, time and money. If you are looking for an employment lawyer in Houston TX or Sugar Land TX, we are here to help you.
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Posted on Thursday, June 12, 2014
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Based in Houston, the attorneys of the law firm of Garcia-Martin & Martin, P.C. serve the business and employment law needs of clients throughout the Greater Houston Metropolitan Area, including Fort Bend County, Harris County, Galveston County, Montgomery County, and the cities of Houston, Sugar Land, Richmond, Rosenberg, Stafford, Missouri City, Baytown, Katy, Galveston, Pear Land, Conroe and the Woodlands