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Doing Business in Texas? Here’s What Your Need to Know

By: SmallBizClub

 

Houston, Texas, USA downtown park and skyline at twilight.

How much information are you required to share as a company according to Texas law?

As a business operating in Texas, it is essential to have a clear understanding of the laws and regulations governing the disclosure of information. Failure to comply with these laws can result in legal penalties, fines, and even damage to a company’s reputation. By understanding the legal requirements for disclosing information, companies can ensure compliance and protect themselves from potential legal issues.

This article will provide an overview of the information that companies are required to disclose under Texas law. We will discuss the Texas Public Information Act (TPIA), which requires government entities to make public information available to the public upon request. We will also examine the exceptions to disclosure and the types of information that may be considered sensitive or confidential.

Additionally, we will cover the process for handling requests for information, including the requirements for responding to requests and the timelines for doing so. Finally, we will explore the potential penalties for non-compliance with Texas law and the consequences of failing to comply with these regulations.

What information is required to be disclosed under Texas law?

The Texas Public Information Act (TPIA) is a state law that requires government entities to provide public access to information upon request. This includes information that is maintained by the government or its agents, including state agencies, universities, local governments, and law enforcement agencies. The TPIA allows individuals to request and access public information without the need for a reason or justification.

Examples of information that must be disclosed

Public information

The TPIA defines public information as any information that is collected, assembled, or maintained by a government entity and pertains to official business. Public information includes a wide range of documents, such as meeting agendas, minutes, contracts, budgets, and audit reports.

Requests for information

Any individual can request public information under the TPIA, and government entities are required to respond to these requests in a timely and reasonable manner. Requests for information must be made in writing, and government entities are allowed to charge a reasonable fee for the cost of retrieving and copying the information.

Exceptions to disclosure

While the TPIA requires government entities to disclose public information, there are exceptions to disclosure that are outlined in the law. Sensitive information, such as personal information, confidential information, and trade secrets, may not be disclosed under certain circumstances. For example, information related to ongoing litigation, law enforcement investigations, or economic development negotiations may be exempt from disclosure.

In addition, government entities may also be required to withhold certain information if the disclosure would harm public safety, the privacy of individuals, or national security interests.

Understanding the types of information that must be disclosed and the exceptions to disclosure is essential for companies operating in Texas. By being aware of these requirements, companies can ensure compliance with the law and protect sensitive information from unnecessary disclosure.

Exceptions to Disclosure

While the TPIA requires government entities to disclose public information, there are exceptions to disclosure that allow government entities to withhold certain information. These exceptions are designed to protect sensitive information from unnecessary disclosure, such as personal information, confidential information, and trade secrets.

Explanation of sensitive information

Personal information

Personal information includes any information that can be used to identify an individual, such as a name, address, social security number, or medical records. This information is protected by law to ensure the privacy of individuals.

Confidential information

Confidential information includes any information that is considered sensitive or proprietary, such as business plans, financial records, or customer lists. This information is protected by law to ensure that companies can maintain a competitive advantage.

Trade secrets

Trade secrets include any information that is used by a company to gain a competitive advantage, such as a formula, design, or process. This information is protected by law to ensure that companies can maintain their competitive edge.

Discussion of exceptions to disclosure

Litigation and attorney-client privilege

Information related to ongoing litigation or legal proceedings may be exempt from disclosure under the TPIA. Additionally, information that is protected by attorney-client privilege, such as communication between an attorney and a client, may also be exempt from disclosure.

Law enforcement and public safety

Information related to ongoing law enforcement investigations or public safety concerns may be exempt from disclosure under the TPIA. This includes information related to criminal investigations, ongoing intelligence operations, or emergency response plans.

Economic development and negotiations

Information related to economic development negotiations, such as negotiations with businesses or other entities to attract economic development, may be exempt from disclosure under the TPIA. This includes information related to incentives, tax breaks, or other financial incentives.

Personnel records

Personnel records, including employment applications, evaluations, and disciplinary records, may be exempt from disclosure under the TPIA to protect the privacy of employees.

It’s important for companies to be aware of these exceptions to disclosure when handling requests for information. If you need to run a background check on a potential employee or contractor, it’s recommended that you use reputable background checkers. Click here to see the best background checkers. By using these services, you can ensure that you are compliant with Texas law and protect sensitive information from unnecessary disclosure.

How to handle requests for information

When a company receives a request for information under the TPIA, it’s important to follow the proper procedures to ensure compliance with the law. The process for handling requests for information includes:

Receipt of request: The company receives the request for information in writing.

Review of request: The company reviews the request to determine if the information requested is public information and whether any exceptions to disclosure apply.

Collection of information: If the information is deemed public information, the company collects the information and prepares it for release.

Notification of requestor: The company notifies the requestor that the information is available and provides a cost estimate for retrieving and copying the information.

Release of information: Once the requester pays any applicable fees, the company releases the information.

Under the TPIA, government entities are required to respond to requests for information in a timely and reasonable manner. Companies should respond to requests for information within ten business days of receipt. If additional time is needed to gather the requested information, the company must notify the requestor in writing and provide an estimated date of completion.

If a company fails to respond to a request for information or does not provide the requested information in a timely manner, it can result in legal penalties and fines. In addition, if the company believes that the information requested should not be disclosed, it must provide a written explanation of why the information is exempt from disclosure.

It’s important for companies to respond to requests for information in a timely and reasonable manner to ensure compliance with Texas law. By following the proper procedures and timelines for responding to requests, companies can avoid potential legal issues and maintain a positive reputation.

Conclusion

In this article, we have discussed the legal requirements for disclosing information under Texas law. We covered the Texas Public Information Act (TPIA), which requires government entities to provide public access to information upon request. We also examined the exceptions to disclosure and the types of information that may be considered sensitive or confidential.

Additionally, we discussed the process for handling requests for information, including the requirements for responding to requests and the timelines for doing so. Finally, we explored the potential penalties for non-compliance with Texas law and the consequences of failing to comply with these regulations.

Understanding Texas law is essential for companies operating in the state. By being aware of the legal requirements for disclosing information, companies can ensure compliance and protect themselves from potential legal issues. Failure to comply with Texas law can result in legal penalties, fines, and even damage to a company’s reputation.

To ensure compliance with Texas law, companies should have policies and procedures in place for handling requests for information. It’s important to train employees on the proper procedures for responding to requests, and to review the exceptions to disclosure to ensure that sensitive information is not disclosed unnecessarily.

Published: March 8, 2023
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