Test Your Employment Law Knowledge

Just for fun today (if you are like me and have no life!), test your knowledge of federal and Texas employment law. If you manage people in the workplace in Texas, this is the kind of information you should know off the top of your head. Give yourself about 10 minutes to answer these questions, then click on the answer page and see how you did.

  1. What is “employment at will” and why is it important?
  2. True or false: A “contract employee” is someone who works full-time for you but for whom you do not have to pay payroll taxes nor report as an employee.
  3. True of false: To prevent violence in the workplace, you should check your applicant’s criminal arrest record.
  4. Age discrimination claims can be filed by an employee who is ____ years of age or older.
  5. True or false: if an applicant is mentally ill, you don’t have to hire that applicant.
  6. At what age can you make an employee retire?
  7. True or false: The company can be liable if a customer sexually harasses its employee.
  8. How many people does a company have to employ before the Family and Medical Leave Act applies to that company? ______ employees.
  9. What is required to legally deduct anything other than payroll taxes from an employee’s paycheck?
  10. You can hold an employee’s final paycheck until he turns in : (check all that apply)   ____ uniforms; _____ company credit cards; _____ tools and other company equipment; ____ keys to company facilities; _____ all money owed to the company for salary advances, benefits, etc.
  11. How many days do you have to get an employee’s final paycheck to him in Texas if he has been fired?  ____ days.
  12. What is the current minimum wage? $_____ per hour. What will the minimum wage be on July 24, 2009? $ _____ per hour.
  13. True or false: An employer must prove that the employee committed “misconduct” if the employer wants to avoid an award of unemployment benefits to a fired employee.
  14. True or false: An employee who was fired for poor performance (just couldn’t do the job correctly) has committed “misconduct” so that she won’t receive unemployment benefits.
  15. How many employees do you have to have before you are liable under the federal and state discrimination laws, such as the laws prohibiting sexual harassment or disability discrimination?


  1. “Employment at will” means that you can fire an employee at any time for good reason, bad reason or no reason at all. It is an important legal concept that can protect you if you are sued for wrongful termination. You should reiterate it frequently in your written employment policies and you should never make promises orally or in writing that suggest that an employee has guaranteed employment with your company for any longer than just today.
  2. False. If you regularly read my column or this blog, you know the term “contract labor” is one of my pet peeves. I am 99% sure that anyone who works for you full-time is your employee, and you better pay employment taxes accordingly if you don’t want the Texas Workforce Commission and the IRS knocking on your door. Click here for a more detailed explanation.
  3. False. Trick question! You should definitely check records of criminal convictions, but arrest records do not demonstrate any guilt and may demonstrate racial bias.
  4. 40 years or older.
  5. False. Mental illness is protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act, and your automatic exclusion of a mentally ill applicant could lead to a disability discrimination lawsuit.
  6. Another trick question. With the rare exception of law enforcement personnel and pilots, you cannot make anyone retire at any age. Mandatory retirement has gone the way of 8-track tapes. It is obsolete. Click here for more information.
  7. True, if the employer knew or should have known about the harassment and did nothing to stop it.
  8. 50 employees within 75 miles of each other. Click here for more information.
  9. A written order from a court (for child support and alimony, for example) or a written authorization from the employee allowing you to deduct something from her paycheck. Click here for more information.
  10. Another trick questions. You cannot “hold” an employee’s final paycheck for any reason under Texas Payday Law. 
  11. The final paycheck must be received by the employee on the next payday if the employee quit or within six days of the employee’s last day if he was fired.  Deductions from that final paycheck for failing to turn in uniforms or keys, for example, may only be made if the employee pre-authorized the deduction in writing (as explained in number 9).
  12. $6.55 per hour is the current minimum wage. It will go up to $7.25 per hour next July, where it will stay until Congress votes to raise the minimum wage again. Click here for more information.
  13. True.
  14. “Misconduct” does not mean poor performance. It usually is interpreted to mean the violation of a written employment policy of which the employee was aware and had been warned about, and the employee was given a chance to cure the problem but did not change her behavior.
  15. Having 15 names on the payroll (whether part-time, full-time, temporary, etc.) for 20 weeks during the calendar year constitutes an “employer” for purposes of most of the discrimination laws. If you have less than 15 employees in your business, it may be worthwhile to stay small. Click here for a more detailed explanation.

Congrats! If you answered 10 or more correctly, you are pretty well-versed in employment law and probably have a good chance of avoiding most employee lawsuits.

If you answered less than 10 correctly, let’s talk!

Post a comment on this entry and let me know how you did on the test. I’m always impressed by how informed and intelligent my readers are.

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