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What Do Texas Employers Need To Know About The Texas Citizens Participation Act (TCPA)?

By Stephen Key - Key Harrington Barnes, PC

December 26, 2017

When it comes to changing laws in Texas, employers need to be very diligent. One of the laws that could be an issue, and that could have a surprising impact on employers, is the TCPA (Texas Citizens Participation Act). This law is something that many employers aren't prepared for, and one that they potentially won't understand the effects of without some research. That can lead them into problems with the new law if they aren't clear on what they need to be doing, what kinds of changes are being created, and how those changes specifically impact them and their employer/employee needs.

The TCPA And First Amendment Rights

One of the biggest issues with the TCPA is the discussion of first amendment rights. According to a Law.com article about this law, the free expression of citizens is what the TCPA is designed to protect. Discrimination, trade secrets, defamation, retaliation, and noncompete agreements are all areas of employment law where the TCPA may come into affect. Employers must be careful when they provide information to employees, make decisions about them, or are provided with information regarding them from other employees. In short, using any type of litigation as a retaliatory weapon is not acceptable, but a defendant in a TCPA case has to show that there is a strong free speech connection.

Free Association And Employee Context

The idea of free association is also significant under the TCPA. The case of Elite Auto Body v. Autocraft Bodywerks helped to decide this issue, wherein two employees left work at one company and went to a competitor. The previous company argued that there were trade secrets taken to the new company, and that was against the law. But the court stated that free association was legal. As for employee context, cases addressing that issue were based on employees in jobs like healthcare, where being able to perform their duties correctly could be a matter of public safety. To that end, defamatory statements made in a peer review were protected, because it was important to be clear on whether the person being reviewed could safely help the public through their employment.

Keeping updated on laws and taking proactive steps to ensure compliance with those laws can help prevent lawsuits from employees. Naturally, companies don't want to be sued. As an employer, you will want to focus on making sure you comply with everything state and federal laws require of you. That will help keep your business safe, and protect both your company and your employees.

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