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A number of laws impacting employers were implemented during the 2023 Texas legislative session ranging from additional training requirements to paid leave insurance program. The most significant laws are summarized below.
Paid Family Leave Insurance. HB 1996 creates a group family leave insurance option starting on January 1, 2024 and went into effect September 1, 2023. The program is voluntary for employers and provides benefits to employees when they have to take time away from work to care for a family member with a serious health condition. Important features and definitions of the paid leave insurance program must include:
- Benefit Period. The insurance policy must provide benefits for no less than two weeks during a period of 52 consecutive calendar weeks. The insurance policy can also decide whether there is an unpaid waiting period before receiving benefits.
- Qualifying Reasons. Leave can be taken for the following reasons: 1) participate in providing care, including physical or psychological care, for a family member of the insured made necessary by a serious health condition of the family member; 2) bond with the insured’s child during the first 12 months after the child’s birth, or the first 12 months after the placement of the child for adoption or foster care with the insured; 3) address a qualifying exigency as interpreted by the Family and Medical Leave Act; 4) care for a family member who is injured in the line of duty; or 5) take other leave to provide care for a family member or other family leave as specified in the policy.
- Serious Health Condition. A serious health condition is an illness, injury, impairment, or physical or mental condition, including transplantation preparation and recovery from surgery related to organ or tissue donation, that involves: 1) inpatient care in a hospital, hospice, or residential health care facility; 2) continuing treatment; or 3) continuing supervision by a health care provider.
- Family Member. A family member is a dependent, spouse, or parent or any other person defined as a family member in the family leave insurance policy.
“Death Star” Law. Previously set to be effective September 1, 2023, HB 2127, the “Death Star” Law, prohibits cities and counties from enacting any law that regulates labor practices that exceed or conflict with state law. Prior to the law, cities could enact their own ordinances regulating labor, agriculture, finance, insurance, natural resources, and occupations. Any current rule or ordinance that regulates leave, hiring practices, breaks, employment benefits, scheduling practices, and any other terms of employment are null and void if they exceed or conflict with federal or state law. Cities like Austin, San Antonio, Dallas, and Houston had their own laws which provided paid sick leave, predictive scheduling, mandatory water breaks, and other employee protections and benefits which were preempted by the Death Star Law. The law also creates a private right of action for individuals who sustained an injury due to a local rule or ordinance. However, several major cities in Texas have filed a legal challenge against the law. On August 30, 2023, a local district court judge declared that HB 2127 in its entirety is unconstitutional and an appeal has been filed. In the meantime, employers should continue to comply with local rules and continue to look for updates on this matter.
CROWN Act. Effective September 1, 2023, HB 567 prohibits discrimination on the basis of hair texture or protective hairstyles in educational and employment settings. Protective hairstyles include braids, locks, and twists. Employers, labor unions, or employment agencies may not implement discriminatory polices related to hair texture or protective styles that are historically associated with race. Grooming and discrimination policies should be updated to reflect this change in the law.
Security Breach Reporting. Effective, September 1, 2023, SB 768 now requires employers to notify the state Attorney General within 30 days of any unauthorized breach. This notice period has been reduced from 60 days. A security breach is an unauthorized acquisition of computerized data that compromises the security, confidentiality, or integrity of sensitive personal information. Employers must also submit a detailed description of the breach in addition to other information through use of an electronic form on the Attorney General’s website.
Human Trafficking Training. Effective September 1, 2023, HB 2313 requires that transportation networks using rideshare applications must provide drivers with annual training about human trafficking awareness and prevention in English and Spanish. The training must be provided before a new driver is authorized to provide rides using the digital network. The training must last at least 15 minutes and include an overview of human trafficking, guidance on how to identify at-risk individuals, relevant information on the difference between labor and sex trafficking, guidance on the role of a driver in reporting and responding to human trafficking, and contact information of appropriate entities for reporting human trafficking.
State Workplace Violence Hotline. Effective March 1, 2024, HB 915 requires employers to post a notice of the hotline for reporting workplace violence or suspicious activity to the Department of Public Safety. The notice must in English and Spanish. The Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) will provide a sample notice and adopt rules for the notice. Until it does, employers have no further obligations.
Child Labor Investigations. Effective September 1, 2023, HB 2549 creates a new penalty of up to $10,000 for employers that have child labor violations. The TWC must also create Child Labor Tribunals to adjudicate disputes of preliminary determinations by investigators and establish an additional level of appeal to the TWC for the parties. The state Attorney General also has the right to seek injunctive relief against repeat offenders.
Restrictions on COVID-19 Regulations. Effective September 1, 2023, SB 29 prohibits government entities from mandating or requiring individuals from wearing a face mask or other face covering to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The prohibition excludes state-supported living centers, correctional facilities, and hospitals.
- Review and revise COVID-19 masking requirements, if applicable.
- Review procedures regarding hiring of child workers.
- Monitor TWC website for model workplace violence hotline posting.
- Develop policy and train drivers about human trafficking awareness and prevention, if applicable.
- Review and revise security breach notification procedures.
- Review and revise discrimination and grooming policies to prohibit discrimination based on hair texture and hairstyles.
- Review compliance with local rules and ordinances with legal counsel.
- Review paid leave insurance program option with insurance carrier.
- Train appropriate personnel on the requirements.
Disclaimer: This document is designed to provide general information and guidance concerning employment-related issues. It is presented with the understanding that ManagEase is not engaged in rendering any legal opinions. If a legal opinion is needed, please contact the services of your own legal adviser. © 2023 ManagEase