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Texas Legislature Passes Laws Impacting the Employer-Employee Relationship

2019-07-22

Several notable bills signed by Texas Government Greg Abbott

House Bill 696 (Operation Welcome Home) was signed on June 10, 2019 and is effectively immediately.  The law creates a program “to expedite the entry of veterans and military service members into the workforce through the use of enhanced employment services.”   The program will “build partnerships between military transition centers and local workforce development boards to ensure the availability of employment services, including services related to (1) education; (2) career technical training; and (3) entrepreneurship.”  A subset of the law is the creation of the Texas Veterans Leadership Program which will be staffed by veterans and will provide resources and tools to re-engage veterans into the workforce.

House Bill 3703 (Texas Compassionate Use Act) was signed on June 14, 2019 and is effective immediately.   This law does not: (1) have an employment clause; (2) protect qualified patients; or (3) restrict an employer’s ability to discipline or terminate an employee who tests positive for marijuana.  However, qualified physicians can prescribe medical marijuana products to treat permanent Texas residents with epilepsy, seizure disorders, multiple sclerosis, spasticity, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), autism, terminal cancer, and incurable neurodegenerative diseases. 

Senate Bill 1978 (Religious Discrimination Protection) was signed on June 10, 2019 and becomes effective on September 1, 2019.  The law prohibits state and local governments from withholding or terminating contracts, licenses, or employment to persons or organizations based on their association with or support of any religious organization.  The law provides for the recovery of compensatory damages, injunctive relief, and attorney’s fees, but not punitive damages.  Additionally, an individual can filing suit claiming religious discrimination before exhausting administrative remedies.

House Bill 541 (Right to Express Breast Milk) was signed on June 10, 2019 and becomes effective on September 1, 2019.  The law requires employers to provide most nonexempt employees with a “reasonable break time” and a private space, other than a bathroom, for the expression of breast milk, through the child’s first birthday.

Senate Bill 370 (Protections for Jury Service) was signed on May 25, 2019 and becomes effective on September 1, 2019.  Employers are prohibited from threatening, intimidating, coercing, or discharging any permanent employee based upon his or her jury service. 

House Bill 918 (Documentation for Released Inmates) was signed on June 2, 2019 and becomes effective on January 1, 2020.  The Texas Department of Criminal Justice is required to provide documentation to a released inmate to assist them in obtaining post-release employment.  The documentation should include, where applicable, a copy of the inmate’s job training record, work record, and a “resume that includes any trade learned by the inmate and the inmate’s proficiency at that trade and documentation that the inmate has completed a practice job interview.”

The foregoing has been prepared for the general information of clients and friends of Workplace Dynamics LLC and is not being represented as being all-inclusive or complete. It has been abridged from legislation, administrative ruling, agency directives, and other information provided by the government. It is not meant to provide legal advice with respect to any specific matter and should not be acted upon without professional counsel.