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Relating to the prohibition of certain employment discrimination regarding an employee who is a volunteer emergency responder.
No significant fiscal implication to the State is anticipated.
HB 2348 would prohibit an employer who employs at least 20 people from terminating or suspending any employee who is absent from, or late to, work because the employee was responding to an emergency in their capacity as a volunteer emergency responder. This prohibition would extend to private employers as well as the state and political subdivisions of the state. The employee would not be allowed to be absent for more than 14 days unless the employee's absence is approved by the employer.
The employee would be required to make a reasonable effort to notify an employer that the employee may be absent or late, and to submit written verification of participation in an emergency that meets certain requirements.
An employer would be allowed to reduce wages otherwise owed to an employee for any pay period because the employee took time off during that pay period for an absence related to responding to an emergency. Alternatively, an employer may require an employee who is a volunteer emergency responder to use existing vacation time, personal leave time, or compensatory leave time for an emergency response related absence.
This bill would entitle an employee whose employment is suspended or terminated in violation of this bill's provisions to reinstatement to their former position or a comparable position, compensation for wages lost during the period of suspension or termination, and reinstatement for any fringe benefits and seniority rights lost because of the suspension or termination. This bill would create a cause of action against an employer to enforce rights protected by this bill's provisions.
Texas Action recommends opposing this bill as a violation of limited government and free markets. This bill would represent undue governmental interference in the contractual relationships between employees and employers of private businesses and local governments. While we understand and appreciate what volunteer emergency responders provide for the state, this is an issue better left to private employers and local governments to work out with their employees as they see fit.
We do not object to the legislature setting these requirements for state employees because the terms of employment for state employees is within the proper domain of the legislature.