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State Labor Laws, 2003 - page 23 / 27

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Worker privacy. Among several changes in the law governing the licensure of polygraph examiners, provisions were eliminated which had required that, in employment examina- tions, each prospective examinee be shown a list of the questions to be asked and that the questions be reviewed with the examinee prior to the commencement of the examina- tion, and that each prospective examinee be shown a list of those areas that the examina- tion will not cover.

The law dealing with the confidentiality of public records was amended to provide that an employee of the Department of Cor- rection is to be allowed to inspect investiga- tive records of the Internal Affairs Division of the Department of Correction prior to a due process hearing at which disciplinary ac- tion is considered or issued unless the com- missioner specifically denies in writing the employee’s request to examine the records prior to the hearing.

Other laws. A law was enacted prohibiting the termination of an employee who is a vol- unteer firefighter due to his or her absence or lateness to work because of responding to an emergency. Any employee who is termi- nated in violation of this law may bring a civil action against the employer within 1 year from the date of the violation seeking reinstatement, payment of back wages, and reinstatement of fringe benefits and senior- ity rights. An employer may charge any time that an employee loses from employment because of his or her response to an emer- gency against the employee’s regular pay. The employer also has the right to request an employee, who loses time for such rea- son, to provide a written statement from the supervisor or acting supervisor of the volun- teer fire department stating that the em- ployee responded to an emergency and list- ing the time and date of the emergency.

Texas

Wages. A law was enacted specifying that the hourly rate provided for in the State mini- mum wage law supersedes a wage established in an ordinance, order, or charter provision governing wages in private employment, other than wages under a public contract. This provision does not apply to any State or Federal job training or workplace devel- opment program or to a minimum wage es- tablished by a government entity that ap- plies to a contract or agreement entered into by a government entity and a private entity.

The wage payment law was amended to authorize employers to pay wages by direct deposit to employees who maintain accounts at financial institutions that qualify for elec-

tronic funds transfer. An employer who wants to pay wages through a direct deposit plan must notify each affected employee, in writing, at least 60 days before the date on which the direct deposit payroll system is scheduled to begin, that the employer is adopting a direct deposit payroll system, and obtain from the employee any information required by the financial institution in which the employee maintains the account that is necessary to implement the electronic funds transfer.

Payroll deductions from the wages of county employees previously limited to payments to a credit union, payment of la- bor union or employee association member- ship dues, payment of fees for parking in a county-owned facility, or payments to a charitable organization, may now be autho- rized for other approved purposes.

Family issues. Limited compensation will be provided to an immediate family member of a deceased violent crime victim for travel expenses associated with attending the fu- neral or for lost wages resulting from bereave- ment leave, taken in connection with the death of the victim, for up to 10 work days, or a maximum of $1,000.

Child labor. TheAlcoholic beverage law was amended to authorize the holder of a permit or license providing for the on-premises con- sumption of alcoholic beverages, who also holds a food and beverage certificate, to em- ploy a person under 18 years of age to work as a cashier for transactions involving the sale of alcoholic beverages if the alcoholic beverages are served by a person 18 years of age or older.

Cash paid as wages will now be presumed abandoned if, for longer than 6 months if the amount is $100 or less, or for longer than 3 years if greater than $100 provided the exist- ence and location of the employee or former employee to whom the wages are owed is unknown to the employer and a wage claim has not been filed under the wage payment law. A check paid as wages for $100 or less is presumed to be abandoned on the latest of: (1) the 180th day after the check was payable; (2) the 180th day after the date the issuer of the check last received documented communication from the payee; or (3) the 180th day after the date the check was is- sued if, during that period, a claim to the check has not been asserted or an act of own- ership by the payee has not been exercised. A check for wages for more than $100 is presumed abandoned on the latest of: (1) the 3rd anniversary of the date the check was payable; (2) the 3rd anniversary of the date the issuer of the check last received docu- mented communication from the payee of the check; or (3) the 3rd anniversary of the date the check was issued if, during that pe- riod, a claim to the check has not been as- serted or an act of ownership by the payee has not been exercised.

Among several amendments to the In- dustrial Development Corporation Act, it was specified that a corporation may spend tax revenue received under the act for job training offered through a business enterprise only if the business enterprise has commit- ted in writing to create new jobs that pay wages that are at least equal to the prevailing wage for the applicable occupation in the local labor market area, or to increase its pay- roll to pay wages that are at least equal to the prevailing wage for the applicable occupa- tion in the local labor market area.

Equal employment opportunity. The Com- mission on Human Rights was abolished, and its powers, duties, functions and activi- ties were transferred to the Texas Workforce Commission, Civil Rights Division. By No- vember 1, 2003, the Governor was to have appointed members to a new Human Rights Commission that will be responsible for gov- erning the Civil Rights Division, with au- thority to grant or seek relief from an unlaw- ful employment practice, or to institute criminal proceedings.

Genetic testing. A person who unlawfully discloses genetic information will now be li- able for a civil penalty of up to $10,000. The attorney general may bring an action in the name of the State to recover the penalty, plus reasonable attorney’s fees and court costs.

Workplace security. A commercial nuclear power plant licensee and its contractors, for security reasons and consistent with require- ments of the United States Nuclear Regula- tory Commission, are entitled to obtain criminal history record information, from the Department of Public Safety, that relates to a person who has or is seeking employment at or access to a commercial nuclear power plant.

Employee leasing. The law regulating staff leasing companies was amended to provide that a client company is solely obligated to pay any wages for which obligation to pay is created by an agreement, contract, plan, or policy between the client company and the assigned employee, and the staff leasing com- pany has not contracted to pay. The staff leasing company is to disclose this informa- tion to all its assigned employees. Prior law required the staff leasing company to take

Monthly Labor Review

January 2004

25

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