Senate Bill 192 Protects Texas Nurses from Retaliation For Engaging in Patient Advocacy Activities

Effective September 1, 2011, SB 192 expands Section 301.52 of the Texas Occupations Code to protect nurses who engage in patient advocacy activities from retaliation by any person.  Acts of retaliation include discipline, discrimination, or enforcing criminal liability.  Protected patient advocacy activities include making good faith reports of another health care provider’s wrong doing to:  (i) the applicable licensing board; (ii) a supervisor or manager; or (iii) hospital/facility officials.  SB 192 also protects nurses who advise other nurses about SB 192’s protections.

If a nurse is retaliated against for engaging in patient advocacy activities, the offending entity or individual may be fined up to $25,000 by the appropriate licensing agency.  Additionally, the entity or person may be subject to civil liability for the greater of: (i) actual damages incurred by the nurse, including damages for mental anguish; or (ii) a $5,000 fine, exemplary damages, court costs, and reasonable attorney’s fees.

SB 192 was passed after two Texas nurses were terminated and a law suit was filed against one of the nurses for reporting safety concerns about a physician to the Texas Medical Board. SB 192 is intended to encourage nurses to raise patient safety issues without concern about possible negative repercussions.

House Bill 2609 Expands the List of Convictions that Prevent Employment in Facilities that Serve the Elderly or Disabled

Effective September 1, 2011, HB 2609 expands the list of convictions in Section 250.006 of the Health and Safety Code that bar employment in facilities that serve the elderly or persons with disabilities (“Facilities”).  Specifically, Section 250.006 requires that Facilities obtain criminal history information before hiring an applicant and prohibits the employment of any individual convicted of certain crimes (e.g., homicide, kidnapping, injury to a child, elderly individual, or disabled individual, arson, robbery, or aiding in suicide).  HB 2609 expands the list of prohibited crimes to include individuals with a conviction for obstructing or retaliating against a public servant or for cruelty to livestock or nonlivestock animals.

Neither HB 2609 nor the Health and Safety Code require that Facilities run new criminal background checks on existing employees.  However, a Facility must immediately terminate a current employee if the Facility learns that the employee was convicted after September 1, 2011 of cruelty to animals and/or obstructing or retaliating against a public servant.  Additionally, a Facility may not rehire a former employee who has been convicted of such offenses in the past.