You can recover unpaid wages, overtime, and tips in Texas if you know your rights and how to enforce them. Does your employer owe you unpaid wages or overtime? Or, maybe you need information on the breaks you’re entitled to, overtime rules, or your right to tips. If so, you'll find the information you need on this site to learn what you can do in Texas to get the money you have earned.
Here, we answer many common questions about wage and hour law in Texas, including:
A few things to keep in mind as you explore this site:
1. Wage and hour laws differ from state to state.
Most states have enacted their own wage and hour regulations and procedures for employees to follow if they have been treated unfairly. These regulations and procedures vary from state to state. Start by finding out about your rights to pay in Texas.
You are entitled to be paid the minimum wage set by law in Texas (unless you are exempt), and you have other work pay rights, too. No matter how you are paid, whether by hourly wage, salary, commissions, tips, or piece rate, the law in Texas gives you certain rights. While your employer can pay you in a variety of ways, each manner of payment is regulated by federal law and the laws of some states. These regulations:
guarantee minimum wage rates
define commission pay
set paycheck payment schedules, and
establish the deadlines for paycheck payments in Texas.
Most employers must pay overtime pay for every hour of overtime an employee works in Texas, unless the employee is exempt. To figure out if you are entitled to overtime pay for your work in Texas, these are the questions you need answers to:
Is your employer covered by federal or state overtime pay laws?
Are you eligible for overtime pay under federal or state overtime pay laws?
Are you exempt from overtime pay laws?
How does Texas regulate overtime pay? and,
What is the overtime pay rate in Texas?
The federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) requires most employers to pay employees one-and-a-half times their regular hourly wage (called "time and a half") for every hour worked over 40 hours in a workweek, unless the employee is exempt from overtime pay entitlement. So, if you are eligible, you should be paid your regular hourly wage plus 50% of that wage as premium pay for each overtime hour you work.
The minimum wage in Texas is the same as the federal minimum wage: $7.25 an hour.
The federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) sets the “floor” minimum wage for eligible workers in the U.S. This means most workers can't be paid less than the federal minimum wage, which is currently $7.25 an hour. But, many states and some local governments set their own minimum wage. Workers are entitled to be paid the highest minimum wage that applies where they work, whether it is set by federal, state, or local law.
Your Texas employer is legally allowed to pay you less than the minimum wage, as long as you earn enough in tips to bring your hourly rate up to the Texas minimum. You can also be required to share or pool your tips with other employees, in some circumstances.
If you earn tips, you should know the rules about
what counts as a tip
how much your employer must pay you in addition to your tips, and
whether and how much you can be required to contribute to a tip sharing arrangement (also called a “tip pool”).
In Texas, you are not entitled to paid rest breaks.
Although many employees get meal and rest breaks during the workday, these breaks aren’t legally required everywhere. Federal law doesn’t require employers to give employees time off to eat or rest during their shifts. Employees are entitled to these breaks only if their state requires it.
The federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) doesn’t require employers to give breaks, but it does regulate when employers have to pay for breaks they choose to give.
Should Your Breaks Be Paid?
The FLSA requires employers to pay employees for all hours worked, including time the employer may classify as a “break.” An employer does not have to pay for longer meal breaks during which the employee is relieved of all work duties.
Am I Entitled to Paid Sick Leave, Family Leave, or Vacation Time in Texas?
Employees in Texas are not legally entitled to paid time off under Texas law.
The rules for paid sick and family leave have changed rapidly in response to COVID-19. In March of 2020, Congress passed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, which required many employers to start providing some paid time off to employees affected by COVID-19 by the beginning of April. The leave provisions of the law expired at the end of 2020, however.
Employers in most states are not legally required to offer paid time off to employees, although many choose to do so.
Paid Sick Leave: Federal Law
The federal Families First Coronavirus Response Act required covered employers to provide up to ten days of emergency paid sick leave for reasons related to COVID-19. However, this law expired at the end of 2020. Although Congress extended a tax credit for employers who choose to continue offering this leave for a few months, it did not extend the requirement that employers provide this leave.
Paid Sick Leave: Texas and Local Law
More than a dozen states require employers to give employees paid sick time to use for their own illnesses or to care for a family member.
There is no statewide law in Texas requiring employers to provide paid sick leave.
In addition, a handful of local governments require employers doing business in the area to give employees a certain amount of paid sick leave. To find out if you are covered by this type of law, consult the frequently updated list of city and county paid sick leave laws at the website of the National Partnership for Women & Families.
Paid Family Leave: Federal Law
The Families First Coronavirus Response Act also required employers to offer public health emergency leave, a form of paid family leave. Eligible employees were eligible to take this leave if they were unable to work or telework because their child's school or care provider was closed or unavailable due to a COVID-19 public health emergency. This leave was available for up to 12 total weeks, the first two unpaid and the remaining ten paid.
However, this leave entitlement also expired at the end of 2020. Like the paid sick leave provision, Congress extended the tax credit for employers who choose to continue providing this leave for a few months, but did not extend the requirement to provide leave.
Paid Family and Disability Leave: State Law
Some states allow employees to collect benefits for disability leave, family and medical leave, or both. Employers may also choose to make such benefits available voluntarily.
A handful of states require employers to provide short-term disability insurance to employees who are temporarily unable to work due to disability, including pregnancy. Typically, employers pay into a state insurance fund to provide this coverage.
Texas does not have its own short-term disability program, however. You are limited to any discretionary benefits your employer chooses to provide.
Some companies provide disability insurance as an employee benefit. This coverage may be short-term, long-term, or both. If you meet your employer’s requirements for taking this type of leave, you can make a claim for benefits under your employer’s plan.
Family and Medical Leave
A growing number of states have made paid family and medical leave benefits available to employees, typically through an insurance program that is funded by payroll withholding and/or employer contributions. In some states, this is part of the disability program; other states don't provide disability benefits, but have a standalone paid family leave benefit program.
Although some states mandate paid family leave benefits, Texas does not. However, you might be entitled to unpaid family or medical leave, as explained below.
Unpaid Time Off for Illness or Family Leave
Even if you aren’t entitled to paid time off when you are sick or need to care for a family member, you may be entitled to unpaid leave. Under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), for example, eligible employees may take up to 12 weeks off per year, unpaid, for their own serious health condition or to care for a family member with a serious health condition (among other reasons). Only employers with at least 50 employees must comply with this law, and employees are eligible for leave only if they have worked for at least a year, and at least 1,250 hours during the past year, for the employer.
Some states also require employers to provide unpaid time off for family and medical reasons, including illness. To find out the rules in Texas, contact the Texas Workforce Commission.
Currently, only Nevada and Maine require employers to provide paid vacation or personal leave to employees (in the form of paid time off).
Texas does not require employers to provide paid time off -- leave that can be used for any reason the employee chooses, like vacation time or personal leave -- to employees. If you have an employment agreement that promises you a certain number of paid vacation or personal leave days, then you may have a contract claim against your employer if it doesn't provide them. Otherwise, however, almost all employers may choose whether or not to offer vacation time or similar paid time off.
If your employer does provide vacation time, state law determines whether your employer must pay out your accrued, unused vacation time when your employment relationship ends.
Under Texas law, your final paycheck must include pay for accrued vacation time if required by your employer’s policy
If You Have Already Lost Your Job
Under all of these federal and state laws, leave is available only to those who are still employed. If you have already been laid off or otherwise lost your job, you should apply for unemployment benefits. You can find lots of information, articles, resources, and links -- including information on how Texas is handling unemployment claims in the coronavirus pandemic -- at our unemployment benefits learning center.
Your employer can garnish your wages in Texas if ordered to do so. When an employer garnishes your wages, it withholds a portion of your pay and gives it to another person or business to whom you owe money. Under federal law, Texas employers may garnish a portion of an employee’s wages because the employer has been ordered to do so by a court or through some other legal procedure by a creditor.
Your wages may be garnished in Texas if you have:
unpaid credit card debt and the credit card company seeks repayment
failed to pay child or spousal support
defaulted on a student loan, or
unpaid taxes due and the taxing authority seeks payment.
Wage garnishment happens when an employee has an unpaid debt (unrelated to employment) and the creditor of the debt seeks payment. Generally speaking, your employer must garnish your wages when ordered to do so. But, there are limits on how much of your earnings may be garnished, and on how your employer responds to the garnishment. And, some states go further than federal law in limiting the amount an employer may withhold from your wages.
If you have an overtime, minimum wage violation, or other wage and hour claim against your employer, you can complain within your company, file a wage claim (in most states), or file a lawsuit to assert your rights.
If your employer has not paid you the full minimum wage, has not paid you overtime you earned, has not paid you for every hour worked, has required you to work through unpaid breaks, or has illegally kept your tips (among other things), you may have a legal claim for wage theft. Below, we explain the most common wage law violations and provide information on how to enforce your right to be paid fairly, and on time, for all of your work.
Common Wage and Overtime Violations
If your employer hasn’t paid you fully for every hour you have worked, you may have legal claims for violation of the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) or Texas wage and hour law. Here are some common wage theft claims.
You don’t have to hire a lawyer to help you negotiate with your employer about unpaid wages or overtime, file a wage claim, or even file a lawsuit in Texas or federal court. At some point in the legal process, however, most people will want to at least consult with a lawyer. And, for many, it will make sense to hire a lawyer early on.
There are many ways an employment lawyer can help you with your legal claims for unpaid wages or overtime. A lawyer can help you by:
Figuring out whether your employer is breaking the law (that is, whether you have a claim in the first place).
Determining how much your employer owes you, including unpaid wages or overtime, other out-of-pocket expenses, and penalties.
If your employer (or former employer) already owes you unpaid wages, overtime, pay for breaks you had to work through, or other compensation you never received, you may be wondering whether you can afford to hire a lawyer to help you get your money back. The good news is that employment lawyers representing employees usually charge their clients on a contingency fee basis. This means the lawyer gets paid only if you win, out of the money you receive as a settlement or award.
Below, we explain how attorney fees and court costs work in a case for overtime or other unpaid wages.
Your first step in choosing an attorney – and deciding whether to move forward with your claims against your employer – is an initial consultation. The initial consultation provides you and the attorney an opportunity to decide whether and how you will work together.
Lisa Guerin has covered employment law topics for Legal Consumer since 2014. After getting her law degree from Berkeley Law, she worked in government, public interest, and private practice, specializing in employment law. She was a legal editor and author at Nolo for many years, where she wrote or contributed to more than a dozen books, mostly on employment issues. She volunteers with groups that help shelter and rescue dogs, and she enjoys hiking with her own Very Good Boy in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Deborah England has written about employment law for Legal Consumer since 2014. She has been a practicing attorney in San Francisco for 30 years, and she has written books and scores of articles on topics such as sexual harassment, family medical leave, and civil rights law. Deborah volunteers as a supervising attorney for the Workers’ Rights Clinic of the Legal Aid Society. She has a journalism degree from the University of Washington and a law degree from Seattle University.
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What Is the Minimum Wage in Texas?
The minimum wage in Texas is the same as the federal minimum wage: $7.25 an hour.
The minimum wage is the least you can be paid per hour, by law. You are entitled to earn at least the highest minimum wage that applies to you, whether the standard is federal, state, or local. The federal minimum wage is currently $7.25. If your city or state has passed a law setting a higher minimum wage, your employer must pay you at least that higher amount per hour; it cannot pay you the lower federal minimum wage instead.
The minimum wage represents gross earnings: earnings before deductions, such as tax withholding, are taken. Your actual take-home pay may be less than the minimum wage.
Who Earns Overtime in Texas?
You qualify for overtime pay if:
you are paid by the hour
you are not exempt (for example, because you hold a “white collar” job), and
you work over 40 hours in a workweek (or 8 hours in a workday in some states).
If you are eligible for overtime, you are entitled to 1-1/2 times your regular hourly rate for each overtime hour worked. Check the Texas Workforce Commission for the overtime standards in Texas.
To calculate your hourly wage, take the total amount you are paid (whether by the hour, as a salary, by piece rate, or on commission) in a pay period, such as one workweek. Divide that total amount by the total number of regular time (not overtime) hours you worked to earn that money. Be sure to count every hour you worked, including time spent working from home (if allowed by your employer) and any break time for which you should be paid, including breaks that lasted 20 minutes or less and breaks during which you had to work. The hourly rate that you come up with must be at least the minimum wage in Texas.
A tip credit is the amount of tips you earn that your employer can count towards its obligation to pay you the minimum wage.
An employer that is allowed to take a tip credit can pay you less than the regular minimum wage, as long as you earn enough in tips to bring your hourly compensation up to at least the minimum wage. Under federal law, for example, the minimum wage is $7.25 an hour, but employers may pay tipped employees as little as $2.13 an hour, as long as the employee earns at least the rest in tips. An employer taking advantage of this lower minimum wage is taking a tip credit of $5.12 an hour.
Not all states allow employers to take a tip credit. Some states that allow a tip credit set the minimum tipped wage amount at $2.13 an hour, like federal law; others have established a higher tipped minimum wage.
In Texas, your employer may pay you a minimum wage of $2.13 an hour, as long as you earn enough in tips to bring your total hourly pay up to the full minimum wage. If you don’t earn enough in tips to bring your compensation to the full minimum wage, your employer must make up the difference.
Are Tip Pools Legal?
Does your employer require you to pool tips? Tip pooling, sometimes called tip sharing or tipping out, is a common practice in establishments where only some employees receive tips directly from customers, especially restaurants.
In a tip pool, tipped employees put a certain amount or percentage of their tips into a pot, which is then shared among a group of employees. Whether a tip pool is legal depends on who shares in the pool, among other things.
The general rule is that tips belong to the employee who received them. However, employees can be required to pay part of their tips into a tip sharing arrangement, as long as it meets these legal requirements:
The employer may not share in the tip pool. This includes managers and supervisors.
If the employer takes a tip credit, then only employees who regularly and customarily receive tips may share in the tip pool. For example, wait staff, bussers, and bartenders may be part of the tip pool, but "back of the house" employees -- like cooks and dishwashers -- may not. (Employers that don't take a tip credit may allow back of the house employees to take a share of the tip pool, but only if state law allows it.)
Only the amount of tips an employee actually takes home counts towards any employer tip credit. In other words, if an employee has to share tips, the employee's hourly wage includes only what the employee got back from the tip pool, not what the employee had to put into the pot.
Am I Entitled to Breaks?
Believe it or not, employers in many states have no legal obligation to give their employees any breaks during the work day. The federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) does not require employers to provide any breaks, and many states follow the same rule. Other states require employers to provide rest breaks, meal breaks, or both.
A small number of states require employers to provide paid rest breaks during the work day.
Texas law does not require employers to offer meal breaks. If your employer chooses to give employees meal breaks, you are not entitled to be paid for that time as long as your break lasts for more than 20 minutes and you don’t have to do any work during your break.
Texas law does not require employers to provide rest breaks. If your employer chooses to let employees take rest breaks, it must pay you for breaks that last for 20 minutes or less.
How Can I Enforce My Wage and Hour Rights?
If your employer hasn't paid you overtime, hasn't given you legally required breaks, didn't give you a final paycheck, or has otherwise not paid you everything you are owed, you should take steps to assert your rights. There are three things you can do:
Complain within your company. Use your company's internal complaint process to raise your concerns. Ask the company to investigate and make the situation right. The law protects you from employer retaliation for asserting your wage and hour rights.
File a wage claim. If your company doesn't resolve your complaint to your satisfaction, find out whether your state has an administrative wage claim procedure. In most states, you can file a claim with the state agency that enforces wage and hour laws. Your claim may be investigated, settled, or sent to an administrative hearing, where you can present evidence that you were not paid properly. It's a good idea to talk to an employment lawyer if you are considering filing a wage claim. A lawyer can help you word the complaint properly, present your best evidence persuasively, and reach the best possible outcome -- all while preserving your arguments for court, if things don't work out.
File a lawsuit. If other avenues don't work, you can sue your employer in state or federal court for wage theft. At this point, you will definitely need legal representation to persuade a judge or jury to enter a judgment in your favor.
What Is a Wage Claim?
A wage claim is an administrative complaint you can make against your employer with your state department of labor. Most states have created a process for employees to file a wage claim with a government agency, so they can get their claims adjudicated and get the money they are owed, in less time and for less money than it would cost to file a lawsuit. Not every state has a wage claim procedure, however. Check the website of the Texas Workforce Commission to learn more.
Do I Need a Lawyer for My Overtime or Wage Case?
In most cases, it makes sense to hire a lawyer to pursue your overtime or unpaid wage claim. This doesn’t mean you should hire a lawyer at the first sign of trouble, however. If you believe your employer hasn’t paid you fairly, start by raising the issue within your company. Ask your manager or your human resource representative about the problem, or file a complaint using your company’s internal complaint process. It is illegal for your employer to retaliate against you for making a wage and hour complaint, whether you make it within your company or to an outside agency or court.
If your company does nothing to address your concerns – or breaks the law by firing or disciplining you for asserting your rights – then it’s time to talk to a lawyer. At this point, your options are to negotiate a settlement of your claims with your employer, file a wage claim against your employer with your state’s labor department (if your state has this type of procedure), or file a lawsuit. Having a lawyer will greatly boost your chances of success in any of these endeavors. And, because most lawyers work on a contingency fee basis in these types of cases, you won’t have to pay the lawyer unless you win. Learn more about finding a wage and hour lawyer.
How Do Wage and Hour Lawyers Charge?
Most lawyers that represent employees charge a contingency fee. This means the lawyer gets paid only if the client wins, and only out of the money the client receives as a settlement or court award. When you meet with a lawyer, ask how the lawyer charges, including what percentage he or she will take as a contingency fee.
You will most likely have to pay the costs of litigation, including court fees, transcription costs, copying costs, and so on. Some attorneys will advance these costs for you, paying them out of pocket until the end of the case. If you win, you can use your award to pay the costs.
What Is a Class Action Lawsuit?
A class action lawsuit is a court case brought on behalf of a group of employees who have similar legal claims against their employer. In a class action case, one lawsuit decides the rights of all employees who are members of the class.
It’s not uncommon for overtime and unpaid wage cases to be brought as class action lawsuits, if the employer applied an illegal policy to a group of employees. For example, if a retail employer required all employees to arrive at 8:30 a.m., spend half an hour cleaning the store and restocking shelves, and then clock in (and start to get paid) at 9 a.m., an attorney might bring a class action lawsuit on behalf of all employees who were subjected to this policy.
Many wage and hour cases involve relatively small dollar amounts. Although every dollar you aren’t paid is undoubtedly very important to you, the overall value of your case might not be high enough to interest an attorney in representing you. When a number of employees combine in one lawsuit, the attorney can bring all of your claims at the same time and earn a higher fee.
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