Jottings By An Employer's Lawyer

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Back In Session, Soon — The Texas Legislature

Although most of the political talk of late has been about what will happen with the new Democratic controlled Congress, the 80th session of the Texas legislature convenes less than a month from now. Texas lawmakers have been busy pre-filing legislation. As of yesterday, in the one month since bills could be filed more than 550 had been.

Among the pre-filed bills are those that would raise the minimum wage:
  • HB 49 (2 steps, $6.25 and $7.25);
  • HB 193 ($6);
  • HB 236 ($6.15);
  • HB 262 (2 steps, $6.65, $7.65 and then indexed using the CPI);
  • HB 338 (3 steps, $5.85, $6.55, $7.25),

plus all would adopt the federal minimum wage if it were higher.

There is a bill that would extend protection against discrimination in employment on the basis of gender identity or orientation, HB 307.

A couple of the bills would impose various penalties on employers who have undocumented employees:

  • HB 325, precluding house builders of more than 100 houses from participating in the statutory dispute resolution program;
  • HB 351, prohibiting a grant from the Texas Enterprise Fund

There is a bill designed to gather information about big employers who do not provide health care insurance by obtaining information from applicants for charitable health care about their or their spouse's employers, HB 338.

Although not employment related, there are two anti-bullying bills applicable to educational institutions — a likely first step before moving the concept to the workplace:

  • HB 68, creating an anti-bullying hot line. Bullying is not defined.
  • HB 163, using bullying as a grounds for removing school from a public school class. The definition of bullying sounds very much like the tort of intentional infliction of emotional distress with one key change. Omitted is the "outrageous conduct" requirement which is supposed to allow judges to act as gatekeepers so that the tort is used only in the most egregious circumstances.

A more complete list of bills that employers might be interested in by sponsor and legislative description follows:

  • HB 34 Solomons. Relating to the prohibition of certain payments or other inducements regarding a workers' compensation claim; providing an administrative violation.
  • HB 38 Solomons. Relating to the requirement that applicants for certain licenses be eligible for employment in the United States.
    HB 48 Chavez. Relating to distributions from the employment and training investment holding fund.
    HB 49 Chavez. Relating to the minimum wage.
  • HB 59 Isett, Carl. Relating to the management, security, and protection of personal information and governmental records; providing a criminal penalty.
  • HB 68 Leibowitz. Relating to the creation of an anti-bullying hotline.
  • HB 129 Truitt. Relating to defamatory statements posted on Internet websites.
  • HB 163 Raymond. Relating to bullying as a ground for removing a public school student from class and placing the student in a disciplinary alternative education program.
  • HB 193 Guillen. Relating to the minimum wage.
  • HB 236 Alonzo. Relating to the minimum wage.
  • HB 262 Coleman. Relating to the minimum wage.
  • HB 307 Farrar. Relating to the prohibition of employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.
  • HB 325 Leibowitz. Relating to construction projects employing undocumented workers.
  • HB 327 Leibowitz. Relating to the minimum wage.
  • HB 338 Leibowitz. Relating to the collection and reporting of employment information regarding beneficiaries of certain health care services and employee health benefit plan coverage.
  • HB 351 Anchia. Relating to prohibiting a grant from the Texas Enterprise Fund to a recipient who employs an undocumented worker.
  • HB 360 Straus. Relating to venue in civil actions brought under the federal Employer's Liability Act or the Jones Act.
  • SB 21 Nelson. Relating to the imposition of additional inspection and background and criminal history check requirements for day-care centers.
  • SB 53 Zaffirini. Relating to the civil liability of an employer or former employer of a mental health services provider who engages in the sexual exploitation of a patient or former patient.
  • SB 54 Zaffirini. Relating to health benefit plan coverage for certain prosthetic devices, orthotic devices, and related services.
  • SB 115 Van dePutte. Relating to certain political activities by a labor organization or an affiliate of a labor organization that receives state funds; providing a criminal penalty.
  • SB 142 Zaffirini. Relating to the eligibility of certain victims of family violence for unemployment compensation.


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