Connect with us

86th TX Lege

Fight Over Paid Sick Leave Turning Into a Fight Over LGBTQ Nondiscrimination Ordinances

A now-erased provision in Senate Bill 15 explicitly said a potential new state law would not supersede local nondiscrimination ordinances. Without that language, many LGBTQ advocates fear Texans could be exposed to some discriminatory employment practices.

Published

on

State Sen. Brandon Creighton, R-Conroe
State Sen. Brandon Creighton, R-Conroe, has introduced a reworked version of Senate Bill 15. Photo credit: Bob Daemmrich/Texas Tribune

This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune

Correction appended

What started as seemingly simple state legislation hailed as good for Texas businesses is drawing skepticism from legal experts and outrage from advocates worried it would strike employment protections and benefits for LGBTQ workers.

As originally filed, Senate Bill 15 by state Sen. Brandon Creighton, R-Conroe, would have prohibited cities from requiring private companies to offer paid sick leave and other benefits to their employees. It also created a statewide mandate preventing individual cities and counties from adopting local ordinances related to employment leave and paid days off for holidays. But it made clear that the bill wouldn’t override local regulations that prohibit employers from discriminating against their workers.

Yet when Creighton presented SB 15 to the Senate State Affairs Committee, he introduced a reworked version — a last-minute move, some lawmakers said, that shocked many in the Capitol.

Among its changes: A provision was added to clarify that while local governments couldn’t force companies to offer certain benefits, business could do so voluntarily. But most notably, gone was the language that explicitly said the potential state law wouldn’t supersede local nondiscrimination ordinances.

There’s widespread debate about what the revised language for the bill means. And the new version has left some legal experts and LGBTQ advocates concerned. Axing that language, they say, could undermine the enforceability of local anti-discrimination laws and allow businesses to selectively pick and choose which of its employees are eligible to receive benefits that go beyond monetary compensation.

“You could see an instance where an employer wanted to discriminate against employees who are in same-sex marriages and say, ‘Well, I will offer extra vacation time or sick leave to opposite-sex couples, but I won’t offer those benefits if it’s for a same-sex couple,” said Anthony Kreis, a visiting assistant professor at Chicago-Kent College of Law.

A spokesperson for Creighton said SB 15 was filed strictly as a response to local governments — like Austin and San Antonio — imposing “burdensome, costly regulations on Texas private businesses.”

“The bill is limited to sick leave, predictive scheduling and benefit policies,” Erin Daly Wilson, a spokesperson for the senator, said in a statement to The Texas Tribune. “The pro-business climate in Texas is something we have worked hard to promote, and need to protect.”

Unlike 21 other states and the District of Columbia that have some sort of employment protection for LGBTQ workers, Texas’ statewide employment discrimination laws don’t explicitly protect LGBTQ employees. Neither does federal law. Since proposed bills to enact such a measure at the statewide level haven’t had any luck in the GOP-dominated Legislature, local ordinances often serve as some of the only protections for LGBTQ workers at the local level, said Cathryn Oakley, a state legislative director and senior counsel for the Human Rights Campaign.

Six major Texas cities — Austin, Dallas, El Paso, Fort Worth, Plano and San Antonio — have nondiscrimination policies in place. Without those local ordinances, advocates say, Texans protected by those ordinances, including those who identify as LGBTQ, would be completely exposed to discriminatory employment practices without any state or federal recourse.

“If these ordinances are so hollowed out by the SB 15 substitute that they’re not meaningful employment protections anymore, that’s going to have a huge impact on folks in Texas who rely on these ordinances to keep themselves and their families safe,” Oakley said.

When asked to address the fears of groups like Oakley’s, Creighton said that “private businesses are best equipped to determine what benefits they can provide to their employees.”

“Senate Bill 15 addresses local governments placing burdensome regulation on private employers and creates a patchwork across the state; therefore, it is purely a jurisdictional issue,” he said.

Still, lawyers are sounding the alarm even though Creighton’s bill doesn’t explicitly mention the local employment protection laws already in place.

“When it comes to nondiscrimination ordinances, terms of employment relating to various benefits and scheduling practices are as integral as decisions relating to hiring, firing and promotions,” said Dale Carpenter, a Southern Methodist University constitutional law professor. “While it’s true that [the bill] should not be read to pre-empt local ordinances forbidding discrimination in hiring, firing and promotions, employment practices encompass a wide range of benefits.”

And legal experts question: If Creighton’s intention is to make sure local nondiscrimination ordinances aren’t gutted under his bill, why was the language removed in the first place?

“The fact it was removed, and there’s an unwillingness to put it back in even though there’s concerns about that, suggests to me there’s an intent to discriminate — it isn’t some kind of inadvertent oversight,” Kreis said.

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick has made the legislation a priority this session and denied that there’s an attempt to discriminate — or that the law would even impact ordinances protecting workers.

“Senate Bill 15 is very specific. It doesn’t change the law one way or another regarding [nondiscrimination ordinances],” a spokesperson for Patrick said when asked about the potential for employment discrimination under the revised language for the bill. “Anyone who is desperately in search of an issue in order to engage in political theater won’t find it in this bill.”

Creighton’s SB 15 sailed out of the Senate State Affairs Committee and could get be debated on the upper chamber’s floor as early as this week. Meanwhile, the House is moving slower on the matter — its companion bill has yet to go before a committee, so the lower chamber’s version still includes the language protecting local nondiscrimination ordinances. State Rep. Craig Goldman, R-Fort Worth, who authored the lower chamber’s companion measure, did not respond to a request for comment on the revised version of Creighton’s bill.

The business community has also maintained that the bill’s intent isn’t to hurt employment protections put in place by Texas cities. Annie Spilman, the state director for the National Federation of Business, insisted that SB 15’s aim is simply to determine a uniform set of employment laws for all employers in the state. She said the business community is “not trying to interfere” with any nondiscrimination ordinances and that the removal of the clause was likely “an oversight.”

“We’re probably going to have to amend this bill several times,” Spilman said.

Correction: A previous version of this story gave an incorrect number for how many LGBTQ residents are protected by non-discrimination ordinances.

The Texas Tribune is a nonpartisan, nonprofit media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them – about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.

Disclosure: Southern Methodist University has been a financial supporter of The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in the Tribune’s journalism. Find a complete list of them here.

Alex Samuels is the community reporter for The Texas Tribune. While at the Tribune, Alex helped revamp the "Texplainer" series and also spearheaded our first-ever Facebook group, "This Is Your Texas," an online community for folks who want to engage in a constructive dialogue about policy challenges facing our state. She graduated in 2017 from the University of Texas at Austin's School of Journalism. She joined the Tribune in August 2016 as a newsletters fellow and later transitioned into a reporting fellow just in time for the 85th legislative session. Prior to coming to the Tribune, Alex worked for USA Today College as both a collegiate correspondent and their first-ever breaking news correspondent. She has also worked for the Daily Dot where she covered politics, race, and social issues.

Continue Reading
Advertisement
Comments

86th TX Lege

Texas Senate Approves Two Bills to Override Paid Sick Leave, Local Control Over Employment Practices

LGBTQ advocates and business groups have warned that the measures could imperil municipal rules that outlaw discrimination.

Published

on

Texas State Sen. Brandon Creighton, R-Conroe

This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune

After facing unexpected friction in Texas’ Republican-dominated Legislature, a pair of bills to override local rules mandating paid sick leave and standardize employment practices across the state passed the Senate on Thursday over the objections of LGBTQ advocates who have warned the bills could threaten local non-discrimination protections.

Since Austin passed an ordinance in February 2018 mandating that employers allow workers to accrue paid sick time, Republican state lawmakers have made clear that they hoped to override such local rules. The lawmakers have called the requirements anti-small business and fretted that they created a “patchwork of regulations” across the state.

The two bills, Senate Bills 2485 and 2487, passed in two party-line 18-12 votes, and now head to the House, where similar legislation on the issue has yet to move.

What seemed to be the consensus paid sick leave bill — which had been filed by Sen. Brandon Creighton in the Senate and Rep. Craig Goldman in the House and had earned the public blessing of the governor — drew ire and stalled after a Senate committee overhauled the measure and stripped out a provision that explicitly protected non-discrimination ordinances.

LGBTQ advocates had cautioned for months that any bill overriding local control over employment practices could threaten several Texas’ cities’ measures prohibiting discrimination against members of the LGBTQ community.

While that bill passed out of committee a month ago, it never made it to the floor. It had been, one business advocate said, “poisoned” after LGBTQ advocates and a coalition of business groups came out against it.

Last month, Creighton filed four narrower bills, each aimed at accomplishing a slice of the original measure’s goals. Two of those four bills passed Thursday; they would prevent local governments from mandating paid sick leave, as well as regulating certain benefits practices.

The two bills that have yet to come up would override local “ban the box” provisions that prevent employers from asking potential employees about their criminal history in the early stages of the hiring process and ensure that certain employment scheduling practices are regulated statewide. Both bills are expected to come to the Senate floor early next week.

LGBTQ advocates have sounded the alarm even about the splintered versions of Creighton’s new, narrower employment practices bills, arguing they could still threaten cities’ non-discrimination ordinances. The city of Austin said the bills could undermine its non-discrimination ordinance, according to The Dallas Morning News, as have legal experts consulted by LGBTQ groups.

But Creighton has maintained that none of the bills would threaten non-discrimination provisions.

“I’ll say it again: These bills don’t affect local nondiscrimination ordinances,” Creighton said last week, laying the measures out before the Senate State Affairs Committee. Other legal opinions, including one from an attorney with the Texas Attorney General’s Office, claim the ordinances wouldn’t threaten those protections.

During a heated floor debate, several Democrats asked Creighton why the state should take away cities’ ability to regulate the businesses in their jurisdictions and raised concerns that pre-empting local regulations could threaten LGBTQ communities.

Creighton responded that it was “not my intent” — nor would it be the bill’s impact — to threaten local non-discrimination ordinances.

“If that’s truly your intent, it would be pretty easy to put that in there and make sure that your intent is actually captured in the law,” said Sen. Kirk Watson, D-Austin. “If you want to be clear, you should put the non-discrimination language back in here… You refuse to do that, and that’s part of the problem.”

“The courts have made it clear: It’s not enough, no matter how well-intentioned you are, to stand on the floor of the Senate and say, ‘That is my intent.’ The courts will look at the words in your statute,” Watson added.

“In the original SB 15 legislation, that policy was written very broadly,” Creighton said. “At that time, it did have [non-discrimination ordinance] language. These single-shot bills are very narrow in scope.”

At one point, during a heated exchange between Creighton and Dallas Democrat Royce West, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick had to step in to keep the senators from talking over each other.

“Members, members,” Patrick intervened. “Who had the floor last?”

The tension did not die down as senators turned to amend the bills and ultimately voted on them.

Watson proposed an amendment to one of Creighton’s bills that would have revived, verbatim, the protections for local non-discrimination ordinances that were present in Creighton’s original bill.

“Members, I would ask that you keep the bill in its current form,” Creighton said. “It’s very clear that non-discrimination language is not needed.”

Watson’s amendment failed.

Alex Samuels contributed reporting.

The Texas Tribune is a nonpartisan, nonprofit media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them – about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.

Disclosure: Amazon Web Services, Equality Texas, Facebook and Google have been a financial supporter of The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in the Tribune’s journalism. Find a complete list of them here.

Continue Reading

86th TX Lege

Texas Bill Would Eliminate Prior Authorizations Requirements for HIV Meds

Texas HB 3058, authored by Rep. Julie Johnson (D-Irving), would prohibit health plan providers from requiring prior authorizations for medications prescribed to treat AIDS or HIV.

Published

on

Antiviral pills used to treat HIV and AIDS often require prior authorization

The Texas House Committee on Insurance held a hearing on House Bill 3058, a bill that would remove bureaucratic barriers between people living with HIV and the lifesaving medications they need. The bill, authored by Rep. Julie Johnson (D-Irving), would eliminate a requirement for prior authorization of prescription medicines that treat AIDS and HIV.

Patients living with HIV who are not on these treatments are able to transmit HIV more easily, which impacts not only the patient themselves but also public health. Timely treatment upon diagnosis and continuity of care is essential for people living with HIV; delays in treatment, however brief, can lead to viral resistance. Once the virus develops resistance, the medication, and often the entire class of medication, are no longer viable treatment options.

“Requiring prior authorization in treatment drugs for HIV & AIDS is a serious barrier to timely treatment for patents and is an adversary of Texas public health overall,” Rep. Johnson said in introducing the bill. “Eighty-five percent of physicians across the U.S. report that the prior authorization requirement is an interference in their continuity of care.”

Health plan providers requiring prior authorization for these medicines, not only put patients at risk but also dramatically increase public health risks and overall cost of treatment. Prior authorization requirements were designed to limit costs, but in the case of HIV & AIDS, the potential cost as a result of inability to access treatment promptly far exceeds the price of the medicines.

Dr. John Carlo, CEO of Prism Health North Texas, which runs three non-profit health centers specializing in HIV treatment and prevention in North Texas, worked with Rep. Johnson to draft the legislation with the goal of expanding access to these medicines and ultimately saving lives.

If passed, the bill would go in to effect on September 1, 2019, and be applied to health benefit plans that are delivered, issued for delivery, or renewed on or after January 1, 2020.

The bill was left pending in committee, with a vote expected in the coming weeks.

Continue Reading

86th TX Lege

Texas Senate Approves Bill LGBTQ Advocates Call a “License to Discriminate”

The bill passed on a 19–12 vote, with one Republican voting against it and one Democrat voting for it. It requires one more approval in the Senate before it heads to the Texas House.

Published

on

Dave Edmonson, Executive Director of Texas and the Southeast region for TechNet, speaks against discriminatory legislation during a press conference on March 27, 2019.

This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune

After emotional testimony, a forceful show of opposition from leaders in the state’s business community and more than an hour of floor debate, the Texas Senate on Tuesday gave preliminary approval to a sweeping religious refusals bill, a priority proposal for Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick that LGTBQ advocates have called a “license to discriminate.”

After emotional testimony, a forceful show of opposition from leaders in the state’s business community and more than an hour of floor debate, the Texas Senate on Tuesday gave preliminary approval to a sweeping religious refusals bill, a priority proposal for Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick that LGTBQ advocates have called a “license to discriminate.”

The measure, Lubbock Republican Charles Perry’s Senate Bill 17, would allow occupational license holders like social workers or lawyers to cite “sincerely held religious beliefs” when their licenses are at risk due to professional behavior or speech. It would also prevent licensing boards from enacting regulations that burden “an applicant’s or license holder’s free exercise of religion.” The bill does not protect police officers, first responders or doctors who refuse to provide life-saving care.

After a heated debate, the measure passed on a 19–12 initial vote, with one Democrat, Sen. Eddie Lucio, voting for it, and one Republican, Sen. Kel Seliger, voting against. It requires one more vote in the Senate before it can be sent to the Texas House for debate.

Perry said the bill provides a defense for licensed professionals who find themselves before credentialing boards based on conduct or speech motivated by their “sincerely held religious beliefs” — a pre-emptive protection for religious employees at a time when, he claimed, religion is under attack.

But LGBTQ advocates and Democrats have criticized the bill as an attempt to give cover to those who would deny critical services to members of the LGBTQ community. Last week, leaders from major businesses like Amazon, Facebook and Google, as well as tourism officials from some of the state’s biggest cities, came out in force against the bill. Discriminating against LGBTQ communities is bad for business, they said.

Patrick, who has tagged Perry’s bill as one of his top 30 legislative priorities, defended it in the face of the business community’s criticism.

“Senate Bill 17 will ensure that anyone can practice their profession in Texas without being forced to compromise their religious faith,” Patrick spokesman Alejandro Garcia said last week.

Equality Texas, an advocacy group, called the bill this session’s “number one threat to the LGBTQ community.”

“Dan Patrick has doubled down on his attack on the LGBTQ community, moving out of bathrooms and into every single licensed profession in Texas,” said Samantha Smoot, the organization’s interim executive director. “SB 17 would create a religious litmus test, and open the doors to discrimination and to real harm to LGBTQ Texans. Dan Patrick has launched a whole new war against LGBTQ people.”

During a lengthy floor debate, six Democrats and one Republican echoed those concerns.

“What if somebody said, ‘I am not going to provide a service because you are a gay couple?’” asked Seliger, an Amarillo Republican. “If somebody said, ‘You’re Muslim, I’m not going to provide this service’?… Doesn’t this bill essentially provide a defense of that discrimination or discriminatory behavior?”

And Sen. Royce West, D-Dallas, pointed to history, when “the practice of faith has been tied to a lot of hideous practices” — like prohibiting interracial marriages.

“The reality is that a lot of people have done things that were not consistent with being a Christian” while claiming religious motivation, West said.

Perry insisted that “this bill does nothing to promote any illegal or discriminatory activity.”

“It’s not licensing discrimination at any level,” he said later in the debate.

In what he characterized as an effort to codify that, Sen. José Menéndez, a San Antonio Democrat, proposed an amendment to the bill that would explicitly prohibit professionals from refusing service based on gender identity or sexual orientation. Perry put it to a vote; the amendment failed 12–19.

“You know that saying, ‘You can put lipstick on a pig?’” asked Sen. Borris Miles, D-Houston. “Sen. Perry, this is a discrimination bill.”

When it came time to vote, Miles’ answer was clear: “No!” he shouted from the back of the chamber.

The Texas Tribune is a nonpartisan, nonprofit media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them – about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.

Disclosure: Amazon Web Services, Equality Texas, Facebook and Google have been a financial supporter of The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in the Tribune’s journalism. Find a complete list of them here.

Continue Reading
Advertisement

april 2019

Filter Events

25apr7:00 PM9:00 PMBookWoman BookGroup Discussion: The Immortalists7:00 PM - 9:00 PM BookWomanCategories:LiteratureAges:All Ages

25apr7:00 PM9:00 PMDrag BingoHost by Vegas Van Cartier7:00 PM - 9:00 PM BT2 AustinCategories:DragAges:21+

25apr8:00 PM10:00 PMSevere Weather WarningPresented by Theatre en Bloc8:00 PM - 10:00 PM Rollins Theatre at The Long CenterCategories:TheatreAges:All Ages

25apr(apr 25)8:30 PM26(apr 26)12:00 AMTexas Hold'em TournamentHosted by Wild West Casino Games8:30 PM - 12:00 AM (26) BT2 AustinCategories:NightlifeAges:21+

25apr(apr 25)10:00 PM26(apr 26)2:00 AMDown & Dirty Thursday ft. DJ ProtégéAll-Male Amateur StripOff ft. Bobby Cook & Sabel Scities10:00 PM - 2:00 AM (26) Rain on 4thCategories:NightlifeAges:18+

25apr(apr 25)11:00 PM26(apr 26)2:00 AMDivas on 4thHosted by Nadine Hughes11:00 PM - 2:00 AM (26) Sellers UndergroundCategories:Drag,NightlifeAges:21+

26apr7:00 PM10:30 PMTexas Hold'em TournamentHosted by ADA Hold'em7:00 PM - 10:30 PM Oilcan Harry'sCategories:NightlifeAges:21+

26apr8:00 PM10:00 PMSevere Weather WarningPresented by Theatre en Bloc8:00 PM - 10:00 PM Rollins Theatre at The Long CenterCategories:TheatreAges:All Ages

26apr(apr 26)10:00 PM27(apr 27)3:30 AMTuckedHosted by Lady Grackle10:00 PM - 3:30 AM (27) Highland LoungeCategories:DragAges:21+

26apr(apr 26)10:00 PM27(apr 27)2:00 AMFriday Night ft. DJ KAHLU10:00 PM - 2:00 AM (27) Oilcan Harry'sCategories:NightlifeAges:21+

26apr(apr 26)10:00 PM27(apr 27)2:00 AMFriday Night ft. DJ Protégé10:00 PM - 2:00 AM (27) Rain on 4thCategories:NightlifeAges:18+

27apr9:30 AM11:00 AMBig Boi Yoga9:30 AM - 11:00 AM TransformCategories:FitnessAges:All Ages

27apr11:00 AM12:00 PMAustin Prime Timer Koffee Klatsch11:00 AM - 12:00 PM BookPeopleCategories:LGBTQ+Ages:All Ages

27apr7:00 PM10:30 PMFeaturedThrift Store Fashion ShowFundraiser for Queerbomb 20197:00 PM - 10:30 PM Treasure City ThriftCategories:Fashion,Fundraiser,ShoppingAges:All Ages

27apr7:30 PM10:00 PMLA BOHÈMEpresented by Austin Opera7:30 PM - 10:00 PM Dell Hall at The Long CenterCategories:TheatreAges:All Ages

27apr8:00 PM10:00 PMSevere Weather WarningPresented by Theatre en Bloc8:00 PM - 10:00 PM Rollins Theatre at The Long CenterCategories:TheatreAges:All Ages

27apr(apr 27)10:00 PM28(apr 28)2:00 AMBody BeautifulHosted by Vegas Van Cartier & Rachel Mykels10:00 PM - 2:00 AM (28) Sellers UndergroundCategories:Drag,NightlifeAges:21+

27apr(apr 27)10:00 PM28(apr 28)2:00 AMSaturday Night ft. DJ Dallas Downs10:00 PM - 2:00 AM (28) Rain on 4thCategories:NightlifeAges:21+

27apr(apr 27)10:00 PM28(apr 28)2:00 AMSaturday Night ft. DJ Eriq Stylez10:00 PM - 2:00 AM (28) Oilcan Harry'sCategories:NightlifeAges:21+

28apr12:00 PM9:00 PMSunday Funday Beer Bust12:00 PM - 9:00 PM Oilcan Harry'sAges:21+

Advertisement

Trending

X