A bill proposed in the Texas Legislature on Friday would prevent employers from firing off-the-clock employees who express their political views.

“I see this as an extension of the protection class for religion, the protection class for creed, the protection class for race. It’s going to cut both ways,” said Rep. James White, the Woodville-area Republican who submitted HB 2787.

White said several employers approached him with the idea for the bill after they felt public pressure to fire employees based on those employees’ political views.

“We need to get back into a situation where we conduct civil discourse with the person we disagree with instead of these flashpoints of protests against the employer and every other organization the person you disagree with belongs to,” White said.

Though it would apply to all employers, White said his proposal would also protect journalists who express how they feel about politics on social media or at protests. White cited examples in Houston, as well as across the country, in which reporters and other news staff were fired after posting their opinions on social media. This bill, he suggested, would lessen pressure on TV stations, newspapers and radio stations to fire those individuals.

“The business would know they couldn’t fire the person because their speech is protected,” said White. “We need to get back to a point where we can disagree with anyone’s position, but we can value everyone’s First Amendment rights.”

He said the next step for the bill to become law is to have a hearing, but he knows the Legislature is currently focused on more pressing issues.

“At least we will start the discussion,” White said.

To read or track the progress of HB 2787, click here.