Legislative Changes Affect Human Resources and Workers Compensation

October 25, 2019

Risk Management News

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Several bills passed by the Texas Legislature during the 86th legislative session that affect counties pertain to human resources and workers compensation. Five of those bills are summarized below with links to each bill.

House Bill 1090

This bill took effect Sept. 1, 2019, and expanded the definition of a "first responder" to include "(E) an emergency response operator or emergency services dispatchers who provides communication support services for an agency by responding to requests for assistance in emergencies; and (F) other emergency response personnel employed by an agency." While HB 1090 expanded the term "first responder," federal law still does not include dispatchers in the federal definition of employees engaged in "law enforcement activities" for overtime purposes under the 207(k) provision.

Simply put, the federal regulations require that dispatchers still earn overtime or compensatory time at 1½ times for every overtime hour worked after 40 hours in the seven-day work period. If counties have any questions about the effects of HB 1090, they should consult their county attorney or assigned TAC HR consultant.

Senate Bill 354

This bill authorized the disbursement of salaries and routine office expenses in counties under 190,000 population without specific approval by commissioners court. The bill allows for a county to operate more efficiently and removes the requirement of a commissioners court to approve every salary or payroll expenditure. It took effect May 31, 2019.

Prior to this bill's passage, Attorney General Opinion KP-0160 held that counties with a population of 190,000 or less lacked the necessary statutory authority to adopt procedures for pre-approval of payroll and office expenses. For more information, please feel free to contact Aurora Flores in the TAC Legislative Services Department.

HB 2143

This bill expands post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) for first responders to one or more events in the course and scope of employment. Those events must be a producing cause of the disorder. The date of injury is the date the first responder knew or should have known PTSD may be related to employment. This bill is effective for a claim filed for benefits or compensation from a compensable injury on and after Sept. 1, 2019.

SB 1582

This bill adds peace officers to the list of those who are entitled to preventative immunizations for diseases to which they are exposed to in course and scope of employment. There are also presumptions of compensability for small pox, tuberculosis and heart attacks given certain parameters are met. The presumptions are rebuttable if a preponderance of evidence demonstrates that a risk factor not associated with the first responder’s service caused the illness or disease. This bill is effective for a claim filed for benefits on and after Sept. 1, 2019.

SB 2551

This bill defines 11 types of cancer that are presumed to be contracted in the course and scope of employment for firefighters and EMTs. This presumption is rebuttable with a preponderance of evidence that shows other evidence was a substantial contributing factor and cancer would not have occurred without it. This new legislation applies to a claim filed for benefits on and after Sept. 1, 2019.

Summary of County-Related Legislation from 86th Legislature

For more information, TAC provides a comprehensive summary of significant county-related bills from the 86th session.

For further information on these or other HR-related topics, members of the TAC Risk Management Pool may contact their TAC HR Consultant.  It is recommended that you additionally consult your county attorney or other legal counsel. Recommendations and information provided are based on current information in the field of Human Resources. This information is not intended to be, nor should they be construed as, legal advice or legal guidance.