By Burnam                                              H.B. No. 300
         77R1189 KSD-D                           
                                A BILL TO BE ENTITLED
 1-1                                   AN ACT
 1-2     relating to protection of an employee in the private sector who
 1-3     reports certain activities; providing a civil penalty.
 1-5           SECTION 1.  Subtitle A, Title 2, Labor Code, is amended by
 1-6     adding Chapter 25 to read as follows:
 1-8                        CERTAIN ACTIVITIES PROHIBITED
 1-9           Sec. 25.001.  DEFINITIONS.  In this chapter:
1-10                 (1)  "Employee" means a person other than an
1-11     independent contractor who, for compensation, performs services for
1-12     an employer under a written or oral contract of hire, whether
1-13     express or implied.
1-14                 (2)  "Employer" means a person who employs five or more
1-15     employees.
1-16                 (3)  "Law" means:
1-17                       (A)  a state or federal statute;
1-18                       (B)  an ordinance of a local government; or
1-19                       (C)  a rule adopted under a statute or ordinance.
1-20                 (4)  "Report" means a written or oral employee report
1-21     made under Section 25.003.
1-22           Sec. 25.002.  EXEMPTION.  This chapter does not apply to an
1-23     employee of a state agency or local government subject to Chapter
1-24     554, Government Code.
 2-1           Sec. 25.003.  EMPLOYER RETALIATION PROHIBITED.  An employer
 2-2     may not suspend, demote, or terminate the employment of, or
 2-3     otherwise discriminate against, an employee because the employee
 2-4     has reported activities within the workplace that constitute a
 2-5     violation of law if the employee makes the report:
 2-6                 (1)  in good faith; and
 2-7                 (2)  to:
 2-8                       (A)  an appropriate law enforcement authority; or
 2-9                       (B)  a supervisor, officer, or other appropriate
2-10     person who exercises managerial authority for the employer.
2-11           Sec. 25.004.  RELIEF AVAILABLE TO EMPLOYEE.  (a)  An employee
2-12     whose employment is suspended, demoted, or terminated, or who is
2-13     otherwise discriminated against, in violation of Section 25.003 is
2-14     entitled to sue for:
2-15                 (1)  injunctive relief;
2-16                 (2)  actual damages;
2-17                 (3)  court costs; and
2-18                 (4)  reasonable attorney's fees.
2-19           (b)  In addition to relief under Subsection (a), an employee
2-20     whose employment is suspended, demoted, or terminated, or who is
2-21     discriminated against, in violation of this chapter is entitled to:
2-22                 (1)  reinstatement to the employee's former position or
2-23     a position that is comparable in terms of compensation, benefits,
2-24     and other conditions of employment;
2-25                 (2)  compensation for wages lost during the period of
2-26     suspension, demotion, termination, or discrimination; and
2-27                 (3)  reinstatement of any fringe benefits and seniority
 3-1     rights lost because of the suspension, demotion, termination, or
 3-2     discrimination.
 3-3           Sec. 25.005.  BURDEN OF PROOF; PRESUMPTION.  An employee who
 3-4     sues under this chapter has the burden of proof, except that if the
 3-5     suspension, demotion, or termination of, or other discriminatory
 3-6     action against, the employee occurs not later than the 90th day
 3-7     after the date on which the employee reports a violation of law,
 3-8     the suspension, demotion, termination, or other discriminatory
 3-9     action is presumed, subject to rebuttal, to be because the employee
3-10     made the report.
3-11           Sec. 25.006.  LIMITATION PERIOD.  Except as provided by
3-12     Section 25.007, an employee who seeks relief under this chapter
3-13     must sue not later than the 90th day after the date on which the
3-14     alleged violation of this chapter:
3-15                 (1)  occurred; or
3-16                 (2)  was discovered by the employee through reasonable
3-17     diligence.
3-19     (a)  An employee must exhaust the employer's grievance or appeal
3-20     procedures relating to suspension, demotion, termination of
3-21     employment, or discrimination, if any, before suing under this
3-22     chapter.
3-23           (b)  The employee must invoke the grievance or appeal
3-24     procedures not later than the 90th day after the date on which the
3-25     alleged violation of this chapter:
3-26                 (1)  occurred; or
3-27                 (2)  was discovered by the employee through reasonable
 4-1     diligence.
 4-2           (c)  Time used by the employee in exhausting the grievance or
 4-3     appeal procedures is excluded from the period established by
 4-4     Section 25.006.
 4-5           (d)  Notwithstanding Subsection (a), an employee may bring
 4-6     suit under this chapter on or after the 31st day after the date on
 4-7     which the employee initiates the grievance or appeal if a final
 4-8     decision is not rendered before the 31st day after the date of the
 4-9     initiation.
4-10           Sec. 25.008.  VENUE.  An employee may sue under this chapter
4-11     in a district court of the county in which the employee resides.
4-12           Sec. 25.009.  CIVIL PENALTY.  (a)  An employer who suspends,
4-13     demotes, terminates the employment of, or discriminates against an
4-14     employee in violation of this chapter is liable for a civil penalty
4-15     not to exceed $500.
4-16           (b)  The attorney general or an appropriate prosecuting
4-17     attorney may sue to collect a civil penalty under this section.
4-18           (c)  A civil penalty collected under this section shall be
4-19     deposited in the state treasury.
4-20           Sec. 25.010.  NOTICE TO EMPLOYEES.  (a)  Each employer shall
4-21     inform its employees of their rights under this chapter by posting
4-22     a conspicuous sign in a prominent location in the employer's
4-23     workplace.
4-24           (b)  The Texas Workforce Commission by rule shall prescribe
4-25     the design and content of the sign required by this section.  The
4-26     commission may combine the contents of the sign required by this
4-27     section with the content of any other sign required to be posted by
 5-1     an employer by the state.  The commission may assess each employer
 5-2     subject to this chapter a reasonable fee to cover the costs
 5-3     incurred by the commission in administering this section.
 5-4           SECTION 2.  This Act takes effect September 1, 2001, and
 5-5     applies only to a suspension, demotion, termination, or
 5-6     discriminatory action that is taken on or after that date by an
 5-7     employer against an employee.