If You Have Employees in Texas, Your Risk of a Sex Harassment Claim Just Increased

Texas recently passed two new laws regarding sex harassment that will impact most employers who have employees in Texas. Both of these new laws go into effect on Sept. 1 of this year.  

Senate Bill 45 amends the Texas Labor Code by:

1. Adding a detailed definition of “sexual harassment”, and

2. Indicating that employers are liable if sex harassment occurs and the employer or its agents or supervisors: a) knew or should have known of the harassment and b) “fail to take immediate and appropriate corrective action”

Use of the word immediate seems to apply a higher standard than Federal law (Title VII), which generally requires an employer to take prompt and appropriate corrective action.     

3. Expanding the definition of “employer” to include one who “acts directly in the interests of an employer in relation to an employee.” This would appear to be a significant expansion of who may be liable for sexual harassment of an employee, potentially including not just owners but also supervisors, HR personnel, or others who have control over workplace conduct.

House Bill 21 creates a longer Statute of Limitations for sexual harassment claims: This new law lengthens the statute of limitations for filing sexual harassment claims from 180 days to 300 days from the date of the alleged harassment. The new, longer limitations period only applies to sexual harassment claims based on conduct that occurs on or after September 21, 2021. The new law does not apply to other forms of discrimination (such as race, disability, gender) which still have the shorter 180-day statute of limitations.

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