What do employers in Texas need to know about Texas Labor Code Chapter 22? This law prohibits discrimination against employees for evacuating during an emergency, and business owners in Frisco and throughout the state of Texas must have a clear understanding of their responsibilities and obligations to employees. Our Frisco employment lawyers can provide you with the information you need to ensure that you remain in compliance with Texas law.
Discrimination Prohibited During Emergency Evacuation
The language in the Texas Labor Code expressly states: “An employer may not discharge or in any other manner discriminate against an employee who leaves the employee’s place of employment to participate in a general public evacuation ordered under an emergency evacuation order.” The law defines an emergency evacuation order as “an official statement issued by the governing body of this state or a political subdivision of this state to recommend the evacuation of all or part of the population of an area stricken or threatened with a disaster.”
To ensure that you are in compliance with the law, it is also necessary to understand how the Texas Labor Code defines a “disaster.” Under the Texas Labor Code, a disaster “means the occurrence or imminent threat of widespread severe damage, injury, or loss of life or property that results from a natural or man-made cause, including fire, flood, earthquake, wind, storm, wave action, oil spill or other water contamination, volcanic activity, epidemic, air contamination, blight, drought, infestation, explosion, riot, hostile military or paramilitary action, or other public calamity requiring emergency action, or an energy emergency.”
As you can see, the definition of a disaster is broad and encompasses nearly all events or occurrences that might be understood to necessitate an emergency evacuation.
What Constitutes Discrimination Under This Law?
Discrimination for the purposes of this law can take many forms, including but not limited to:
- Transfer for a less desirable work location
- Assignment of less desirable work hours
- Limitations on the employee’s eligibility for trainings or other advancement
- Denial of a promotion; and/or
- Any other adverse actions taken because of the employee’s decision to participate in a public evacuation.
Exemptions for Employers to Know About
Despite the far-reaching language of the Texas Labor Code concerning disasters and emergency evacuation orders, it is important to know that there are exemptions. Indeed, Chapter 22 of the Texas Labor Code does not apply to the following:
- Emergency services personnel, as long as the employer has adequate emergency shelter for those employees (including firefighters, police officers, emergency medical technicians, and others in related jobs); and
- Employees who are necessary to provide for general public safety, such as an employee who helps to restore vital services in the aftermath of a disaster.
Consequences for Employers Who Violate Chapter 22 of the Texas Labor Code
You should know that you can face consequences if you discriminate against an employee in violation of Chapter 22 of the Texas Labor Code. The law clarifies that employers are liable for the wages an employee loses and for any lost benefits resulting from the employer’s violation. In addition, employers should know that violating this chapter of the Texas Labor Code can result in the employee being entitled to reinstatement in the same position, or to a position equivalent to the one held prior to the violation.
Contact a Frisco Employment Lawyer
If you have questions about your responsibilities as an employer, our Frisco employment law attorneys can help. Contact Simon Paschal PLLC to learn more.