Workplace Violence Reporting Poster Required
Effective September 1, 2023, Texas employers of any size are required to “post a notice to employees of the contact information for reporting instances of workplace violence or suspicious activity to the Department of Public Safety.” On its website, the Texas Workforce Commission (“TWC”) has posted a notice to employers that compliance is expected beginning on January 8, 2024, and provided a poster to be posted in English and Spanish in a conspicuous place convenient to all employees to comply with this new requirement.
This requirement followed the enactment of Senate Bill 240, which requires healthcare facilities to adopt a workplace violence prevention plan, as described below.
Healthcare Facilities Required to Create Workplace Violence Prevention Plans
Senate Bill 240 added Chapter 331 to the Texas Health and Safety Code, which requires healthcare facilities to adopt workplace violence prevention plans by September 1, 2024. Facilities covered by Chapter 331 include hospitals, nursing facilities, ambulatory surgical centers, freestanding emergency medical care facilities, and mental hospitals. Committees comprised of at least “one registered nurse who provides direct care to patients,” “one facility employee who provides security services for the facility, if any,” and, if the facility has one on staff, a licensed physician “who provides direct care to patients” must develop a violence prevention plan. Facilities must adopt, implement, and enforce a written plan to protect “employees from violent behavior and threats of violent behavior occurring at the facility” which is based on the practice setting and:
- requires workplace violence prevention training on at least an annual basis,
- prescribes a system for responding to and investigating incidents of workplace violence,
- addresses physical security and safety,
- requires the facility to solicit input from employees in developing the plan,
- allows for reporting of workplace violence, and
- requires adjustments to patient care to prevent an employee who has been intentionally physically abused or threatened by a patient from having to provide treatment to that patient.
Chapter 331 does not include a citation or penalty structure, though violations are treated as violations of applicable licensing laws.
In 2023, the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (“OSHA”) took steps toward developing a workplace violence prevention standard in healthcare. If enacted, the OSHA standard may augment or supplant the standard articulated by Chapter 331.
Ban on COVID-19 Vaccine Mandates for Private Employers
On November 10, 2023, Governor Abbott signed into law Senate Bill 7, which prohibits private employers from adopting or enforcing a mandate requiring employees, contractors, or applicants to be vaccinated against COVID‑19 as a condition of employment or a contract position or taking an adverse action against an employee, contractor, or applicant for a refusal to be vaccinated against COVID‑19.
Certain specified healthcare facilities, healthcare providers, and physicians that establish and enforce a reasonable policy that includes requiring the use of protective medical equipment by an employee or contractor who is not vaccinated against COVID‑19 “based on the level of risk the individual presents to patients from the individual’s routine and direct exposure to patients” are excepted from coverage of the law.
Employees, contractors, and applicants will be able to file complaints with the TWC, which is required to investigate such complaints and authorized to bring an action for injunctive relief an impose an administrative penalty of $50,000 for each violation unless the employer takes certain corrective action.
New Chapter 81D of the Texas Health and Safety Code will take effect on February 6, 2024.
Texas CROWN Act Prohibits Race-Based Hair Discrimination
Texas became the 21st state to prohibit race-based hair discrimination in workplaces, schools, and housing with the passage of the Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair Act (“CROWN Act”). The CROWN Act became effective on September 1, 2023, and bans discrimination “on the basis of hair texture or protective hairstyle [which is defined to include braids, locks, and twists] associated with race.” The Act further prohibits any employment practice that “adopts or enforces a dress or grooming policy” that would violate the CROWN Act.
Updates to Child Labor Investigations and Administrative Process
House Bill 2459 amended Chapter 51 of the Texas Labor Code to update the administrative process related to Texas state child labor law investigations. Effective September 1, 2023, employers found to have violated Chapter 51 or rules adopted by the TWC under Chapter 51 may be required to pay an administrative penalty of up to $10,000. In addition, the statute amends the process for investigation and administration of child labor law violations, allowing for preliminary determinations of liability and penalties by TWC investigators, requiring that the TWC create Child Labor Tribunals to adjudicate disputed preliminary determinations, and establishing an additional level of appeal. The statute also authorizes the attorney general to seek injunctive relief against any employer who repeatedly violates child labor laws.
Shortened Timeline for Data Breach Notification
Effective September 1, 2023, Texas businesses have a shortened timeline to notify the Attorney General of any data breach affecting 250 or more state residents. Instead of having up to 60 days, businesses must notify the Attorney General “as soon as practicable and not later than the 30th day after” the date on which the breach is discovered. Businesses still have 60 days to notify individuals affected by any data breach.
Option for Group Paid Family Leave Insurance Coverage
While some Texas employers currently have short-term disability insurance coverage which applies to absences for the employee’s serious illness or injury, House Bill 1996 authorized and established a regulatory framework for group family leave insurance that employers may obtain to cover employees’ time away from work for reasons covered by the Family and Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”), including to care for family members or to bond with a new child. Effective January 1, 2024, insurers may offer paid family leave insurance to employers.
This insurance coverage may ease the burden on Texas employers of providing paid family leave to their employees.
The Texas Regulatory Consistency Act “Death Star Law” Passed, but Found Unconstitutional
The Texas Regulatory Consistency Act sought to end the “patchwork of regulations that apply inconsistently across the state” by prohibiting municipalities and counties from adopting or enforcing ordinances, rules, or orders involving business, commerce, finance, labor, and other regulatory fields in conflict with state law, including, for example paid sick leave and pay transparency requirements. Shortly before the Act was to take effect, however, Travis County Judge Maya Guerra Gamble ruled that the law was unconstitutionally vague. An appeal is currently pending in the Third Court of Appeals.
To learn more about any of the Texas state law topics above and how it impacts your business or any other general questions, please contact the authors of this article or your Dykema relationship attorney.