Texas Expands Protection and Penalties for Sexual Harassment within the Office: Particular person Legal responsibility Now Accessible


On September 1, 2021, over 600 new laws came into effect in Texas. Importantly, three (Senate Act No. 45, Senate Act No. 282, House Act No. 21) have drastically modified the established, employer-friendly framework for sexual harassment lawsuits in the state of Lone Star. Specifically, these changes include: (1) greater protection for people working for small employers who are otherwise not covered by anti-discrimination laws; (2) individual liability for sexual harassment; (3) Extended deadlines in which employees can submit complaints to the responsible federal and state enforcement authorities; and (4) a ban on the use of taxpayers ’money to resolve sexual harassment lawsuits against elected officials.

Not only will these changes significantly expand the scope of existing anti-discrimination laws, but they will undoubtedly lead to an increase in the number of sexual harassment lawsuits and lawsuits against employers and members of management. As such, companies are encouraged to review their current sexual harassment policies, practices, and training and, if necessary, consult trusted employment counselors for more information.

Expansion of employer coverage to companies with only one employee

Prior to September 1, an “employer” subject to Texas Labor Law (as well as federal anti-discrimination laws) was a natural or legal person employ at least 15 people. However, Senate Act 45 amended Chapter 21 of the Texas Labor Code relating to Sexual Harassment Lawsuits and added Sub-Chapter C-1 – now an “employer” is defined as any person who “employs one or more employees or acts directly in the interests of an employer vis-à-vis an employee. ”In other words, any company that employs at least one employee is now subject to the Texas Labor Code and can therefore potentially be held liable for sexual harassment experienced by an employee in the workplace.

Individuals can now be held liable for employee sexual harassment

Subchapter C-1 also provides for the manager’s individual liability for sexual harassment claims. Subchapter C-1 provides that liability for sexual harassment cannot only be attributed to the ultimate employer; it can also be attributed to agents or superiors of the employer when they “knew or should have known that the behavior constituting sexual harassment took place and are not taking immediate and appropriate remedial action”.

Basically, this change significantly changes the environment for sexual harassment in Texas, as supervisors and managers (under previous law) were generally not individually liable for claims (unless the manager or supervisor was directly involved in an attack or other crime-like behavior ). . However, members of management can now also be named who fail to take “immediate and appropriate corrective measures” – individually – as a defendant in a follow-up lawsuit. What is meant by “immediate measures” must of course be clarified by the courts. At a minimum, however, employers should instruct senior management to report any harassment they have observed to a human resources representative (or other designated group / person) as soon as possible in order to limit potential liability. In light of this change, employers should continue to consider solid executive training on sexual harassment in the near future – even if she did it earlier in the year.

Plaintiffs have more time to file claims

Prior to September 1, employees were required to file a discrimination charge with the Texas Workforce Commission (TWC) or the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) within 180 days of suspected sexual harassment. Otherwise it is not possible for the employee to bring a later action against the employer. Employees now have 300 days to submit an application to the TWC or EEOC. This change only applies to sexual harassment claims. Applicants alleging all other forms of unlawful employment practices are still subject to the 180-day statute of limitations.

Officials are not allowed to use taxpayers money to resolve sexual harassment claims

In addition to the newly added worker protection measures discussed above, under Senate Bill No. 282, Texas tax dollars can no longer be used or appropriated for the purpose of resolving or settling claims of sexual harassment against elected and / or appointed public officials – including members of the Executive, legislative and judicial branches of the state government. It is important that the prohibition apply to both the officially elected officer (e.g. governor, house member, judge, etc.) and any person appointed by the governor as a member of a department, commission, committee or other office is within the executive, legislative, or judicial branch of the Texas government.

Bottom line

September 1, 2021 marks a drastic change in Texan labor law. Employers are strongly advised to review their policies, procedures and training on sexual harassment in the workplace and, if necessary, to contact a trusted employment advisor for more information.

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