Texas Employers Liability for Sexual Harassment is Expanded
Update Applicable to:
All employers in Texas.
Governor Abbott signed two bills into law regarding sexual harassment, Senate Bill 45 (SB 45) was signed into law on May 30, 2021, and House Bill 21 (HB 21) was signed into law on June 6, 2021.
What are the details?
Effective September 1, 2021, the two passed bills will make an impact on employers by expanding employee protection for sexual harassment claims.
The first bill, SB 45, expands coverage of sexual harassment claims to any person or entity that “employs one or more employees” or who “acts directly in the interests of an employer in relation to an employee.” It also requires employers to be attentive to sexual harassment in the workplace and act quickly to stop it. Specifically, an employer would be committing an “unlawful employment practice” if “sexual harassment of an employee occurs and the employer or employer’s agents or supervisors:
- Know or should have known that the conduct constituting sexual harassment was occurring; and
- Fail to take immediate and appropriate corrective action.”
The second bill, HB 21, provides employees an additional 120 days to bring a sexual harassment claim under the Texas Labor Code with the Texas Workforce Commission Civil Rights Division. This will bring the filing timeframe to 300 days from the date of alleged harassment but only applies to conduct that occurs on or after September 21, 2021.
The documents for SB 45 can be read here.
The documents for HB 21 can be read here.
An article on the laws can be found here.
What do employers need to do?
Employers should review the laws to be aware of the updated standards that will be in place regarding sexual harassment and make any applicable updates to their policies to stay in compliance. The law firm, Akerman LLP, recommends that employers of all sizes:
- Have anti-harassment policies in place which clearly describe prohibited conduct, establish specific avenues for reporting concerns, and include anti-retaliation provisions; and
- Train supervisors and others who may have control over workplace conduct in how to recognize and respond to sex harassment or claims of sex harassment.