Law does not guarantee paid leave

Law does not guarantee paid leave

Q. Am I entitled to a paid leave when I have a child? My employer has told me any leave will be without pay.

A. Under the Family and Medical Leave Act, you may be entitled to up to 12 weeks leave, depending on the size of the company and how long you have worked there. The law, however, does not require that the leave be with pay. All you may be legally entitled to is an unpaid leave.


Q. My employer deducted money from my paycheck for not following company rules. I didn’t even know about the rule. I also cannot afford to lose money this way. What are my rights?

A. Basically, an employer does not have the right to just withhold money from an employee’s paycheck for rule infractions. An employer may deduct from your wages only if the employer:

• Is ordered to do so by a court

• Is authorized to do so by law, or

• Has written authorization from the employee.

For example, an employer may deduct for child support or income tax withholding. Any other type of deduction must be authorized in writing by the employee. There is no law authorizing him to withhold money simply because of a rule violation. I suggest you ask your employer where he has the authority to withhold for a rule violation, and where you agreed to it in writing. I also should point out that in most cases an employer may not deduct if the deduction reduces your wages below the minimum wage. For more information, visit the Texas Workforce Commission website,


Q. My car was stolen from a mechanic. He says his insurance covers only damages to the car and not theft. Am I out of luck?

A. This is an interesting question because it raises the issue of how insurance affects liability. The mechanic’s insurance has nothing to do with his liability to you. Insurance only pays money for obligations of the insured person. It does not create or preclude liability. In your case, the mechanic is liable if his negligence caused the theft. For example, if the garage was not properly locked or the keys were left in the ignition, the mechanic could be found to have been negligent, and responsible. If the mechanic is responsible, you have a claim against him regardless of whether he has insurance.


Q. My sister has a power of attorney over my deceased father’s property. I don’t think she is doing what he said to do in his will. Is this legal?

A. A power of attorney gives someone the right to manage the affairs of another. A power of attorney, however, terminates at death. In other words, your sister’s power of attorney is no longer valid. The will should be probated, and the executor is the one who will manage your father’s estate.


Q. A credit application I filled out asked for the name of a relative as a “contact” person. I am now behind in my payments. Does the person I listed have any liability for my debts?

A. A person you list as a “contact” does not have any liability for your debt, unless he or she otherwise agrees to pay it. For example, if your relative signed as a co-signer or guarantor, she would be liable if you did not pay. Based on what you say, the company has the right to contact her in an attempt to locate you, but she has no liability.


Q. If my mother gives me a power of attorney, do I become liable for her debts?  

A. A power of attorney gives rights but does not impose liability. A power of attorney gives a person the right to act on behalf of another. For example, if your mother gives you a power of attorney, you will have the right to act on her behalf. You can basically do whatever she has the right to do with her property. The power of attorney, however, does not make the person to whom it is given responsible for the other party’s debts. You would have no liability for your mother’s debts, unless you separately agreed to pay them.


Q. I rent a house. I have two large dead trees in my yard. I have spoken with the landlord but he refuses to cut the trees. I am afraid the trees will blow down in a storm and hurt someone. Can I withhold rent until he cuts the trees? What can I do to force him to cut them down?

A. First, do not withhold rent. This could get you evicted. To determine your legal rights, read your lease to see if it deals with the question of who is responsible for maintaining the trees. Assuming it does not make you responsible, in my opinion the landlord has an obligation to prune or cut the trees. If he does not, he could be liable for any damages that result from his negligence. 

I suggest you contact the landlord in writing and explain the situation. Let him know you believe it is dangerous. Explain that if the dead tree falls in a storm, is it likely someone will get hurt, or your property will be damaged. Tell him you expect him to promptly take steps to eliminate the problem, and that if he does not, he could be liable for any damage caused by one of the trees falling. Hopefully, once he knows you know the law, he will cut down the trees.