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Texas can’t take away workers’ water breaks, judge rules


Photo: YinYang/iStockphoto

Austin, TX — A Texas judge has struck down a recently signed state law that would prohibit local municipalities and counties from mandating water breaks for workers.

Passed by the Texas Legislature in May and originally scheduled to go into effect Sept. 1, H.B. 2127 would have allowed the state to preempt certain local and county laws, including those aimed at preventing heat-related illnesses and injuries.

In June, the City of Houston filed suit against the state, contending the law is unconstitutional. On Aug. 30, Judge Maya Guerra Gamble ruled that the law “in its entirety is unconstitutional – facially, and as applied to Houston as a constitutional home rule city.”

Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner (D) said in a press release: “I am thrilled that Houston, our legal department and sister cities were able to obtain this victory for Texas cities. H.B. 2127 was a power grab by the Legislature and an unwarranted and unconstitutional intrusion into local power granted to Houston and other home rule cities by the Texas Constitution.”

The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Dustin Burrows (R-Lubbock), wrote on X – formerly known as Twitter – that the judgment is “not worth the paper it’s printed on.” The state is expected to appeal the ruling.

“The Texas Supreme Court will ultimately rule this law to be completely valid,” Burrows added. “The ruling today has no legal effect or precedent and should deter no Texan from availing themselves of their rights when H.B. 2127 becomes law on Sept. 1.”

During an Aug. 31 press conference, acting Labor Secretary Julie Su said OSHA is “hard at work” on finalizing a proposed rule aimed at protecting workers from extreme heat exposure in indoor and outdoor settings. The agency recently initiated a Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act panel review, one of the next steps in the rulemaking process, and has extended the comment period on the rule to Dec. 23.

A finalized regulation, however, could take at least two to three more years, based on a rulemaking flowchart on OSHA’s website.

“For workers, the heat is not just an inconvenience or a discomfort,” Su said. “For millions of workers across the country, heat is an occupational hazard, and it can be deadly. Every worker has the right to a safe and healthy workplace. That is the law.”

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