The Texas legislature finished up a jam-packed legislative session over the summer that will have a profound impact on employment law in Texas. The Governor has also announced a special session on August 5 that did not proceed until late last week due to a lack of quorum as most of the Democratic legislators in the Texas House left the state to prevent a vote on a bill relating to voting laws. One of the measures that will be considered in the special session is “[l]egislation shielding private employers and employees from political subdivision rules, regulations, ordinances, and other actions that require any terms of employment that exceed or conflict with federal or state law relating to any form of employment leave, hiring practices, employment benefits, or scheduling practices.” Other than this one measure all bills related to labor and employment law will either become law on September 1 or failed to secure enough votes to make it to the Governor’s desk.
You can read about the bills that the Texas Legislature considered that could have affected employment law in my prior article here: https://texaslaborlawblog.com/2021-texas-legislative-session-labor-and-employment-law-bills/.
Below are the most important labor and employment law bills from this session that were passed.
Senate Bill 45: Relating to the Prohibition Against Sexual Harassment in the Workplace
Under this Bill, the Texas Legislature expanded the definition of employer for sexual harassment claims to anyone that employs one or more employees rather than the current 15-person limit. The bill also includes anyone that “acts directly in the interests of an employer in relation to an employee” as employers, which means that supervisors and others may be included as individual defendants. The law will take effect on September 1, 2021, and will likely result in more lawsuits related to sexual harassment as more employers are now covered under the law.
House Bill 21: Extends Statute of Limitations for Sexual Harassment Claims
This bill will expand the statute of limitations for making sexual harassment claims from 180 to 300 days after the alleged sexual harassment. It will be effective September 1, 2021 and will result in more claims involving sexual harassment as employees have a longer time to file claims.
House Bill 139: Relating to the Occupational Licensing of Military Veterans and Spouses
The law requires state agencies that issue licenses with a residency requirement to obtain an occupational license to accept a copy of a permanent change of station for the military service member that the spouse is married to establish residency (i.e. a military spouse can show their husband’s/wife’s change of station (i.e. orders) transferring them to a Texas military base or location and that will satisfy any residency requirement for a military spouse to obtain an occupational license).The law will expedite the processing of applications for a license for veterans or military spouses when they have a change of station order (i.e., they are ordered to Texas).
HB 1927 (The Texas Firearm Carry Act)
Texas will become a “constitutional carry” state on September 1. The new law allows individuals that are 21 years old or older to carry handguns in public, either in a holster or concealed, without a government permit, provided they are not prohibited from owning a firearm under state or federal law. The law does not permit individuals to carry handguns in government courts (unless allowed under regulations or with the authorization of the court); on racetrack premises; in the secured area of an airport; bars; high school, college, or professional sporting events; prisons; hospitals; nursing homes; and amusement parks.
Most important for employers, the law still permits businesses to prevent members of the public (or employees) from bringing firearms into their businesses. It is a class C misdemeanor if a person carries a firearm into a business when they have oral or written notice that firearms are not allowed on the premises. As a reminder, Texas does require employers to allow employees to have firearms in their locked vehicles parked on company property (barring a few exceptions for certain workplaces where it would not be safe to do so). The law does not change this requirement.
SB 6: Texas Pandemic Liability Shield
The Texas Legislature passed SB 6 which limits the liability for a number of parties for injuries or deaths related to the pandemic. The most important provision of the new law holds that employers can only be liable for workplace exposures if they knowingly failed to comply with government issued guidance or standards to lower the likelihood of Covid; they had a reasonable opportunity to implement practices related to the guidance or standards; they refused to comply with the standards or guidance; the guidance that the party did not comply with did not conflict with other government guidance or standards; and “reliable scientific evidence shows that the failure to warn the individual of the condition, remediate the condition, or implement or comply with the government-promulgated standards, guidance, or protocols was the cause in fact of the individual contracting” Covid. The law limits potential lawsuits for employers, but it remains to be seen how effective it will be in protecting employers. Employers should do what they can to prevent Covid in the workplace. You can read more about this in my past posts:
This was an eventful labor and employment law session for the Texas legislature. Covid was obviously the hot topic and primary concern. The next regular session in 2023 will likely cover a number of other issues that were considered this year but did not pass through the legislature.
The information provided in this blog is for educational purposes only and is not legal advice. If you need legal advice, then you should speak with a lawyer about your specific issues. Every legal issue is unique. A lawyer can help you with your situation. Reading the blog, contacting me through the site, emailing me or commenting on a post does not create an attorney-client relationship between any reader and me.
The information provided is my own and does not reflect the opinion of my firm or anyone else.
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