HBA-AMW, SEP H.B. 300 77(R) BILL ANALYSIS Office of House Bill AnalysisH.B. 300 By: Burnam Economic Development 2/23/2001 Introduced BACKGROUND AND PURPOSE Current law prohibits retaliation against public employees who report violations of law by the employing governmental entity or another public employee. However, private sector employees who report illegal acts are only protected in certain circumstances and risk losing their jobs. House Bill 300 prohibits an employer of five or more employees from discriminating against an employee who reports a violation of law and sets forth procedures for an employee who experiences such discrimination to seek relief and compensation. RULEMAKING AUTHORITY It is the opinion of the Office of House Bill Analysis that rulemaking authority is expressly delegated to the Texas Workforce Commission in SECTION 1 (Section 25.010, Labor Code) of this bill. ANALYSIS House Bill 300 amends the Labor Code to prohibit an employer of five or more employees from suspending, demoting, terminating the employment of, or otherwise discriminating against an employee because the employee has reported activities within the workplace that constitute a violation of the law. The bill provides that the employee make the complaint in good faith and to an appropriate law enforcement authority or a supervisor, officer, or other appropriate person who exercises managerial authority for the employer. An employer in violation of these provisions is liable for a civil penalty not to exceed $500. The bill authorizes the attorney general or an appropriate prosecuting attorney to sue to collect the penalty which is required to be deposited in the state treasury. An employee whose employment is terminated or suspended, who has been demoted, or who has been otherwise discriminated against by an employer is entitled to: _sue for injunctive relief, actual damages, court costs, and reasonable attorney's fees; _reinstatement to the employee's former position or a comparable position in terms of compensation, benefits, and other conditions of employment; _compensation for wages lost during the period of suspension, demotion, termination, or discrimination; and _reinstatement of any fringe benefits and seniority rights lost because of the suspension, demotion, termination, or discrimination. The bill provides that an employee must sue not later than the 90th day after the date on which the alleged violation occurred or was discovered by the employee through reasonable diligence. The bill provides the following exceptions to this provision: _an employee must exhaust the employer's grievance or appeal procedure, relating to the suspension, demotion, termination, or discrimination before suing; _the employee must invoke the grievance or appeal procedures not later than the 90th day after the date on which the alleged violation occurred or was discovered by the employee through reasonable diligence; and _an employee is authorized to bring suit on or after the 31st day after the date on which the employee initiates the grievance on appeal if a final decision is not rendered before the 31st day after the date of the initiation. The bill further provides that an employee is authorized to sue in a district court of the county in which the employee resides, and has the burden of proof unless the employee was terminated, suspended, or demoted within 90 days after the date on which the employee reported a violation of law. The bill requires that each employer inform its employees of their rights under these provisions by posting a conspicuous sign in the workplace. The Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) is required to prescribe, by rule, the design and content of the sign. The bill authorizes TWC to collect a reasonable fee from employers subject to these provisions to cover costs incurred in administering these provisions. EFFECTIVE DATE September 1, 2001.