If the employment discrimination bills recently introduced in the Texas Legislature become law, Texas workers will gain important, additional protections and rights under state law. LGBT employees in Texas will gain significant new protections against discrimination from employers, state contractors, and agencies. In addition, Texas employees will have new causes of action for sex discrimination in pay rates and employer inquiries into the wage history of a job applicant. However, it is unlikely that the bills will become law.
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In the current regular session of the Texas Legislature, bills have been filed that would amend Texas employment and agency contracting laws to provide protections based on a person’s “sexual orientation” or “gender identity or “expression.” In addition, a bill has been filed that would prohibit sex discrimination in compensation. None of these bills, however, are likely to pass the Republican-controlled legislature or be signed into law by Governor Greg Abbott.
Employment Discrimination is Prohibited in Texas
The general employment discrimination law in Texas, under Texas employment law, prohibits discrimination. This includes discrimination because of an individual’s race, color, disability, religion, sex, national origin, or age. However, this provision does not currently protect against discrimination based on a person’s sexual orientation, gender identity or expression. State Representative Eric Johnson (D-Dallas) has filed a bill, known as H.B. No. 225, that would amend said code to make it illegal for an employer, agency, labor organization, or joint labor-management committee to discriminate because of a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity or expression.
Many States Have Labor Laws that Prohibit Discrimination
If the bill by Rep. Eric Johnson becomes law, Texas would join 20 other states, plus the District of Columbia, in making it illegal for an employer to discriminate because of sexual orientation and gender identity or expression. Under this bill from Eric Johnson, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender, that is, LGBT employees, in Texas would gain significant new protections against discrimination in the workplace.
You may have a discrimination claim under either existing or proposed Texas labor law. If so, you must file a complaint with the Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) not later than 180 days after the date of the unlawful employment discrimination in order to later file suit in state court (the deadline is 300 days for discrimination claims under Title VII to be filed in federal court). If enacted, this bill by Rep. Eric Johnson would take effect on September 1, 2017. Depending upon the facts of your case, Kilgore & Kilgore can represent you at any time during the process of your discrimination claim with the TWC.
A similar bill, known as H.B. No. 876 was filed by Rep. Chris Turner Texas (D-Arlington and Grand Prairie). It would prohibit discrimination by state contractors based on sexual orientation or gender identity or expression. This would add a new Section 2155.0065 to the Texas Government Code. Both bills have the same “sexual orientation” and “gender identity or expression” definitions. The bill by Rep. Chris Turner Texas would impose an administrative penalty of $100 per day for each employee or job applicant who is discriminated against by a state contractor because of sexual orientation or gender identity or expression. If enacted, the bill by Rep. Chris Turner Texas would take effect on September 1, 2017.
There is another bill introduced by Rep. Rafael Anchia (D-Dallas). This one would prohibit a state agency from accepting a bid, or awarding a contract to a person who resides or conducts business in, a state with any law allowing discrimination based on “sexual orientation or gender identity or expression.” The bill by Rep. Rafael Anchia, known as H.B. No. 258, would add a new Section 2155.008 to the Texas Government Code. It would require a vendor to certify that he or it is not ineligible to receive the specified contract. If a state agency later determines that the vendor was ineligible to receive the contract, that agency may immediately terminate the contract without obligation to the vendor. If enacted, the bill by Rep. Rafael Anchia would take effect on September 1, 2017.
Potential Texas State Version of the Federal Equal Pay Act
Texas law does not have an equivalent to the federal Equal Pay Act, which specifically prohibits sex-based wage discrimination. Rep. Eric Johnson has filed another bill, known as H.B. No. 290, that would create a robust state version of the Equal Pay Act and bolster the claims that a person could assert for sex-based wage discrimination. This bill by Rep. Eric Johnson would add a new Chapter 24, called Employment Discrimination Regarding Compensation, to the Texas labor law. The bill by Rep. Eric Johnson specifically prohibits sex discrimination in the payment of wages. This is slightly more favorable to employees than the federal Equal Pay Act.
The bill by Rep. Eric Johnson would also prohibit employers from inquiring about or considering a job applicant’s wage history information. Furthermore, that bill would prohibit retaliation by employers against anyone who asserts her rights under the new law. The bill would require employers to post a specific notice in the workplace regarding the new law. Employers would also be required to maintain particular wage records for their employees.
Sex Discrimination in Wages Already Prohibited in Texas
Sex discrimination in the payment of wages is already unlawful under Texas labor law. But the bill by Rep. Eric Johnson would provide Texas workers with an additional, and more comprehensive, statutory claim for sex discrimination in compensation. If a person had such a claim under the bill by Rep. Eric Johnson, s/he would initially have to file a complaint with the TWC not later than 180 days after the date of the unlawful discrimination. Depending upon the facts of your case, Kilgore & Kilgore can represent you at any time during the process of your discrimination claim with the TWC. If enacted, the bill by Rep. Eric Johnson would take effect on January 1, 2018.
Kilgore & Kilgore Attorneys May be Able to Help You with a Discrimination Claim
The attorneys at our firm have experience with discrimination and fair wage claims. We understand employee rights laws. We have helped clients make their claims and have guided clients through the process. Click here to review testimonials received from clients we helped Employment Discrimination Client Statements. If you have a discrimination claim or wage claim, contact us to see if we can help. We offer a free review of the facts of your case. Click here to get started Contact Us.