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Friday, September 1, 2023

Water Breaks for Construction Workers

 A Texas judge has blocked a new state law prohibiting local governments from requiring water breaks for construction workers. House Bill 2127 law was set to effect on Friday, September 1, 2023.

The judge, Travis County District Judge Amy Clark Meachum, ruled that the law was unconstitutional because it violated the Texas Constitution's Home Rule Clause, giving cities and counties the power to regulate their affairs. Meachum also found that the law was preempted by federal law, which requires employers to provide employees with water breaks in hot weather.

The law was challenged by the cities of Houston, San Antonio, and El Paso. (Complaint) The cities argued that the law would have put their workers at risk of heat illness and death.

The Texas Attorney General's Office, defending the law, said it will appeal the judge's ruling.

The decision is a victory for worker advocates, who had warned that the law would have been a disaster for construction workers in Texas. The state has a hot and humid climate, and heat-related illnesses are a major problem for workers. In 2022, there were 19 heat-related deaths among construction workers in Texas.

The decision is also a setback for Governor Greg Abbott, who signed the law into effect in June. Abbott has been a vocal critic of local governments, and he has prioritized limiting their power.

The legal battle over the law is likely to continue for some time. However, the judge's ruling is a significant victory for worker advocates and a setback for Governor Abbott.


Jon L. Gelman of Wayne, NJ, is the author of NJ Workers’ Compensation Law (Thomson-Reuters) and co-author of the national treatise Modern Workers’ Compensation Law (Thomson-Reuters). For over five decades, the Law Offices of Jon L Gelman 1.973.696.7900 have represented injured workers and their families who have suffered occupational accidents and illnesses.

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Author: "Workers' Compensation Law" West-Thomson-Reuters