Beginning September 1, 2021, sexual harassment laws in Texas will change. Here’s what your company needs to know.
In Texas, new regulations on sexual harassment claims mean that employers of all sizes may be liable for sexual harassment claims brought on by their employees. Now’s the time for employers to review workplace policies that not only keep employees safe but comply with the current law.
There are several changes from the previous legislation under Chapter 21 of the Texas Labor Code. The most notable changes will expand which employers are liable and the statute of limitations for filing a claim.
Which employers are liable?
All employers. Previously, employers needed to have at least 15 employees to be covered by the law. Now, any employer with at least one employee can be held liable for sexual harassment.
Before, employees could only sue their employing company for sexual harassment. The new legislation includes liability for anyone who “acts directly in the interests of an employer in relation to an employee,” such as managers or supervisors.
Standards for an employer’s response
The current law requires “prompt, remedial action” after a sexual harassment complaint. Now, unlawful employment practice occurs when a supervisor(s) knew or should have known that an employee was sexually harassed and failed to take “immediate and appropriate corrective action.”
This is a subtle shift in responsibility that makes leadership more directly responsible to act on any harassment they know of; not just the cases that have been reported.
Longer statute of limitations
Employees can make sexual harassment claims up to 300 days from the date of the alleged sexual harassment. Previously, employees had 180 days to bring claims.
Defining sexual harassment
The Texas Labor Code added a detailed definition of sexual harassment. It is now defined as an unwelcome sexual advance, a request for a sexual favor, or any other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature if:
- It’s a condition of employment, either explicitly or implicitly;
- It is used in a decision about the person’s employment;
- It unreasonably interferes with a person’s work performance; or
- It creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive working environment.
Your business is a better place to work when employees know where to go with concerns and leaders are prepared to take action. Contact your Nextep HR Business Partner if you have any questions or concerns about this update, we are here to help!