The 87th Texas Legislature met from January to May and then again in three more special sessions from July to October, giving lawmakers many opportunities to pass new bills in the Lonestar State.
While many of the bills passed are ceremonial there are several new laws that affect Texas employers.
“Over its regular and [three] special sessions, the Texas Legislature has passed several bills that are or soon will be in effect and will impact employers’ workplace policies and procedures,” says law firm JacksonLewis.
Medical Use of Low-THC Cannabis Expansion
Employers that use drug testing in the workplace should be aware of an expansion of medical use of low-THC cannabis that became law in September.
Previously low-THC cannabis could be prescribed only for a very limited number of medical conditions but the new law, HB 1535, adds post-traumatic stress disorder and all forms of cancer to the qualifying list of conditions.
The new law also doubles the amount of permissible THC in low-THC cannabis products from 0.5 percent to 1 percent.
JacksonLewis says, “While the use of “low-THC cannabis” should not cause a user to feel “high,” THC stays in the body for days or weeks and frequent use over time may cause a positive drug test result for marijuana … Texas employers should be prepared for a corresponding rise in accommodation requests from users of low-THC cannabis for medical purposes.”
Workplace Sexual Harassment Protections
New laws expand workplace sexual harassment protections to employees in Texas.
- Small employers (with fewer than 15 employees) can be sued for sexual harassment
- Sexual harassment claims can be brought against individuals
- Sexual harassment charges can be filed up to 300 days after the alleged conduct.
JacksonLewis says, “These are significant changes that can be expected to increase the number of sexual harassment claims filed under Texas state law.”
New Signage Needed for Permitless Carry Law
Employers will need new signage under amendments to section 30.05 of the Texas Penal Code with the Firearm Carry Act of 2021 (HB 1927) allowing most Texans over the age of 21 to carry holstered handguns without a permit and without training.
JacksonLewis says, “This relaxed standard, however, does not curtail an employer’s right to prohibit possession of firearms on its premises, except that it remains unlawful for most employers to prohibit employees from keeping a firearm they lawfully possess in their personal, locked vehicles in a company parking area.”
Possession of firearms on business premises will constitute a criminal misdemeanor only if the business has notified the public orally or through signage that firearms are prohibited on the property.
New Rights for Employees Called to State Military Duty
SB 484 gives employees the right to hire a lawyer and file a civil lawsuit if they allege a violation of Texas law prohibiting a business from discharging an employee called to state military active duty or training. Previously, the only recourse for employees was to file a complaint with the Texas Workforce Commission.
Texas employees are now afforded the same benefits and protections available under the federal Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act and under the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act.
New Laws Regarding COVID-19 Pandemic
As could be expected, the COVID-19 pandemic and business responses were the topic of new laws:
The Pandemic Liability Protection ACT (SB 6) protects businesses from liability from injury or death caused by exposure to any individual (employee or not) to a pandemic disease.
JacksonLewis says the new “statute does not afford absolute immunity” with claims still possible in limited circumstances if a business:
- Knowingly failed to warn of, or to remediate, a condition it knew was likely to result in exposure; or
- Knowingly refused to comply with government standards or guidance intended to lower the likelihood of exposure.
The Texas Tribune reported that, “companies doing business in Texas face new and complicated challenges after Gov. Greg Abbott this week banned COVID-19 vaccine mandates for all entities in the state — including private businesses — for employees or customers.”
Need some help navigating these new laws? Reach out to us anytime here at Employer Flexible.