James White, a Republican state Representative from District 19, has proposed a new bill to the Texas Legislature. House Bill 2787 aims to protect employees from being fired for expressing their political beliefs outside of the workplace. It would add political views to the currently protected classes of “race, color, disability, religion, sex, national origin, or age,” designated by the Texas Labor Code, Section 21.051.
It is important to note that under this new legislation, only comments made outside the workplace during an employee’s free time would be exempt from disciplinary actions from employers. This protection would not extend to views expressed inside the workplace or in the course of someone’s work as it clearly designates that it includes “only” those instances that occur while off the clock.
White’s reasoning for the proposal is to return society to a place of civil disagreement where we can respectfully disagree with those around us and still grant them the rights guaranteed under the 1st Amendment of the US Constitution, without attacking them and the organizations they belong to. When several employers approached White because they had felt pressure to fire an employee based on their views stated outside the workplace, he realized that this was a serious concern.
While the idea of free speech has become more important lately both to the American public and to White himself, he recognizes that the Texas Legislature has many other issues they are focused on and is simply hoping that his bill will receive a hearing.