On September 1, 2023, the Texas Regulatory Consistency Act, or House Bill 2127, will be coming into effect. For employers across the state, particularly those who are concerned about local ordinances when conducting employment screening, this Act may add some consistency and clarity. Let’s explore what this means for businesses operating in Texas.
Understanding the Shift
The Texas Regulatory Consistency Act has been crafted with the intention of streamlining regulations across Texas. Its primary aim is to prevent cities and counties from enforcing or enacting rules that conflict with state statutes, unless expressly permitted by another law. With this Act, businesses can expect a more standardized regulatory landscape, particularly in areas ranging from workers’ rights to property matters.
Central to the Act is the concept of preemption, where state laws will have precedence over local ordinances. In practical terms: if a local law conflicts with a state law, the latter will prevail. This ensures that businesses have a uniform set of guidelines to follow, regardless of the city or county in which they operate.
The Act is fairly broad — while it does not cover every single regulatory area, it does specifically include employment practices:
employment leave, hiring practices, breaks, employment benefits, scheduling practices, and any other terms of employment that exceed or conflict with federal or state law for employers other than a municipality or county.
Implications for Hiring Practices in Cities Like Austin
Austin’s progressive hiring ordinance, known as the “ban the box” law, had previously prohibited private employers from asking about a job applicant’s criminal history until a conditional job offer was made. However, with the new state law, such local ordinances will no longer be enforceable. This applies beyond Austin and includes other cities with similar laws, such as DeSoto.
The implementation of the Texas Regulatory Consistency Act means that many employers might find themselves with more flexibility in their hiring processes. While restrictions around criminal history inquiries during initial hiring stages will no longer apply, employers are still expected to adhere to state and federal guidelines.
Recommendations for Employers
Despite the increased flexibility, it’s wise to continue to uphold fair hiring practices. While the specific mandates of ordinances like Austin’s might no longer be in place, the principles behind them, such as conducting individualized assessments of an applicant’s criminal history, remain relevant and align with guidelines from bodies like the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).
The law has already had considerable pushback, earning the nickname “Death Star”. Houston and San Antonio have already sued the state. Other cities such as Dallas are considering it. There is little question that there is a political divide, as blue cities are the most likely to have progressive labor laws affected by HB 2127. One option may be to simply wait and see what happens.
To ensure seamless adaptation to the new legislative landscape, you might consider:
- Revising policies: Given the broader latitude, there is an option to revisit hiring policies, updating job applications and interview scripts where necessary.
- Training and education: Keep HR teams and decision-makers informed about the changes to ensure uniformity in hiring practices.
- Consistent record-Keeping: It (still) remains crucial to maintain detailed records of hiring decisions to ensure transparency and legal compliance.
- Consultation with legal experts: Engaging with legal professionals familiar with Texas employment law can provide valuable insights into the nuances of the new Act.
Looking to the Future
The Texas Regulatory Consistency Act promises a more unified regulatory environment for employers. While it offers businesses more freedom from varied local rules, the need to adhere to state and federal guidelines remains paramount. If you are looking for a partner to offer compliant background checks, SentryLink is happy to help.