Jottings By An Employer's Lawyer

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Opening Day at the Texas Legislature - Welcome Back

Today was opening day of the 79th regular session of the Texas legislature. Although this session appears likely to be dominated by school finance and other fiscal matters, legislators have been filing proposed legislation since November. Below are (generally) employment related bills which could effect private sector employers. Although it is a not a large number, don't worry, bills can be filed in the first 60 days of the legislative session.

H.B. 131 Thompson (D - Houston). Permits a parent staying home with a new born child to draw unemployment if certain criteria are met.

H.B. 143 Farrar (D - Houston). Prohibits employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity, or discrimination against an individual based on the sexual orientation or gender identity of persons with whom the individual is believed to associate or to have associated.

H.B. 149 Pena (D - Edinburg). Places certain restrictions and procedures on the use of evidence of an alleged victim's past sexual behavior or alleged sexual predisposition in civil cases.

H.B. 237 Menendez (D - San Antonio). Not technically labor and employment law bill except so many practitioners are wed to their cell phones and this would make it illegal to use one in a motor vehicle unless it was stopped or you were using a hands free device. The companion bill is S.B. 139 Ellis (D - Houston).

H.B. 243 Goolsby (R - Dallas). May be the first bullying bill introduced into the Texas legislature, this one would allow students to be placed in disciplinary alternative education for engaging in bullying defined as: engaging in written or verbal expression or physical conduct that: (1) the student knows or reasonably believes will cause significant emotional distress to another student; (2) causes significant emotional distress to another student; and (3) would cause significant emotional distress to a reasonable person under the same circumstances. This sounds very similar to the tort of intentional infliction of emotional distress, which has had a checkered history at best. See also H.B. 283 Hope (R - Conroe) would allow the transfer of a student who was the victim of bullying.

H.B. 248 Goodman (R - Arlington). Would give courts continuing jurisdiction for the purposes of correcting or clarifying QDRO's and requiring them to be submitted to plan administrators to determine whether they meet the requirements for a QDRO.

H.B. 251 Eissler. (R - Magnolia). Would allow the release of additional workers compensation claim information to insurance companies who have established an anti-fraud program.

H.B. 269 Keel. (R - Travis) Would prohibit the use of an expunged criminal record for any purpose and permit a person to deny an arrest and expunction order.

H.B. 299 McClendon (D - San Antonio). FMLA type bill for employers with more than 10 employees would require up to 1 hour per month for attendance at certain school activities.

H.B. 330 Berman (R - Tyler) Makes Health Savings Accounts exempt from attachment or execution by creditors.

H.B. 334 Burnam (D - Fort Worth) Would establish $6.15 as the minimum wage.

S.B. 41 Zaffirini. (D - Laredo). An FMLA type act that would give time off from work to participate in certain activities of the employee's child. Would define employer as any employer with 10 or more employees and would provide up to one hour a month of unpaid time for meeting with teacher or attending other school function.

S.B. 70 Shapleigh (D -El Paso). Would provide a preference for potential state vendors for those who provide medical benefits for their employees.

S.B. 74 Shapleigh (D - El Paso). A Texas version of the Equal Pay Act that would be applicable to an employer with four or more employees.

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