As most employment lawyers in Texas will tell you, we have the doctrine of at-will employment. At-will employment means that employees have very few protections in the workplace. At-will employment means that even after a 20-year career with a company, if new management comes in and decides to “shake things up” by firing the old guard and bringing in the new, unless there was an unlawful motivation, they can do this. The employees with 20 years of tenure with the company could be entirely without recourse.
What is written into the law (as well as what is not) determines whether a motivation is unlawful. We have federal and state laws that protect employees from discrimination based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, age, and disability. We have federal laws and state laws that protect employees from being ripped off by those employers that think it is perfectly fine to steal wages from their employees. We have federal law that protects an employee’s overtime pay. We also have federal laws that are designed to ensure safe working conditions for employees working in various industries.
If there is a conflict between federal and state law, federal law will prevail. This is the doctrine of preemption at work, which is based on the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution. Similarly, if there is conflict between state and local law, state law preempts the local. Yet, where there is no conflict between a high authority (e.g., federal law) and lower (e.g., state), or where state or local law is designed to provide more protections than federal law, the protections can stand.
They stand until lawmakers take them away.
State and local laws apply to people who live or work in a specific state, county, city, municipality, or town. When looking at our various levels of government, it is easy to see that it is our local government that is closest to our day-to-day lives. It is the elected officials of our counties, cities, towns, and villages that know what the people in their locality want, and more importantly need.
With that being said, shame on you Texas. Not all of Texas; Texas I love you. However, the power grab that is known as the Death Star bill (HB 2127), is very disheartening. Despite being born and raised in Texas, I can certainly be disappointed by the politics.
On May 24, 2023, Death Star landed on the Governor’s desk, where it now waits to be signed. When signed, it may very well bring destruction to a city or small town near you. State Sen. Brandon Creighton(R) is quoted stating the bill is aimed at “activist cities.” What he is really saying is that the bill is aimed at cities that listen to their residents or constituents, know and understand their needs, and work to protect their interests by creating local ordinances specific to the communities they serve.
House Bill 2127 restricts the ability of local elected officials to regulate in a number of areas important to their residents by banning ordinances related to state codes for Agriculture, Business and Commerce, Finance, Insurance, Natural Resources, Property, Occupations and Labor.
For employment law, what this bill means is that local officials cannot create ordinances related to employment leave, hiring and firing, rest breaks, pay, employment benefits, or “any other terms of employment that exceed or conflict” with state or federal law.
With Texas being one of the states showing little concern for protecting the rights of workers, what little power local leaders had to make things just a bit better for their residents is being stripped away.
Where workers had found a way to make strides locally, our state government is determined to take those gains away. Workers must ban together and keep fighting. Work even harder to remove elected officials from state government that have very little regard for the lives of everyday working people. Every vote count in every election.