August 2021 Texas HR Legal Updates

Texas Employers Liability for Sexual Harassment is Expanded

Update Applicable to:
All employers in Texas.

What happened?
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.

June 2021 Texas HR Legal Updates

Texas Passes COVID-19 Liability Shield Legislation

 Update Applicable to:
All employers in Texas.

What happened?
On June 14, 2021, Texas Governor Abbott signed the Pandemic Liability Protection Act into law.

What are the details?
Like the other COVID-19 related liability shield laws being passed, it creates a higher burden of proof from plaintiffs in cases alleging the contraction of COVID-19 in the workplace. Some of these higher burdens include:

The act can be read here.

What do employers need to do?
Employers should continue to conform to local safety requirements to ensure they are protected by this liability shield.

 

March 2021 Texas HR Legal Updates

Texas Court Finds Minimum Wage Law Preempts San Antonio Paid Sick Leave Ordinance

Update Applicable to:
Employers within the City of San Antonio.

What happened?
On March 10, 2021, the Texas Fourth Court of Appeals upheld a preliminary injunction preventing San Antonio’s amended Sick and Safe Leave Benefits ordinance from taking effect since December 2019.

What are the details?
In its decision, the appellate court held that San Antonio’s ordinance violates the Texas Minimum Wage Act. As detailed below, this decision is one in a line of decisions that have prevented these kinds of ordinances from taking effect across Texas over the last several years.

The City of San Antonio was the second city in Texas to enact a paid sick and safe leave benefits ordinance, following Austin’s enactment of such an ordinance two years earlier. San Antonio’s ordinance was scheduled to take effect on August 1, 2019 and would have required covered private employers to provide certain paid sick and safe leave benefits to employees based on hours worked within the city limits. The ordinance never took effect, however, because of litigation stemming from fierce opposition to requiring private employers to provide such benefits.

The Fourth Court of Appeals’ decision regarding San Antonio’s ordinance is consistent with its sister court’s ruling regarding the identical ordinance in Austin. On November 16, 2018, the Third Court of Appeals held Austin’s ordinance was unconstitutional for the same reason, resulting in a preliminary injunction that likewise prevented the Austin law from taking effect. Observing the fate of the Austin ordinance, San Antonio officials amended their ordinance and delayed its effective date to overcome the same constitutional scrutiny that doomed the Austin ordinance. This attempt, so far, has failed.

An article covering more about the ongoing lawsuits can be found here.

What do employers need to do?
Texas employers with operations in San Antonio should monitor the situation for any challenges by the local officials.

June 2020 Texas HR Legal Updates

Texas Restricts Sales of Alcohol on Site, Limits Restaurant Capacity, Closes Businesses Temporarily to Combat COVID-19

What happened?
As part of the “Opening of Texas” Executive orders, bars will be closed effective June 26, 2020 only allowing sales for delivery and takeout.

What are the details?
Per Executive Orders GA-26, GA-23, GA-21, and GA-18, collectively all part of the “Opening the State of Texas” process, the State has decided to close bars effective June 26, 2020 for the foreseeable future. They will be allowed to continue with sales for delivery and takeout.

Restaurants will also now be limited to 50% capacity, a reduction from the previous 75% allowed. Rafting and tubing businesses will also be closing.

Further reading and a link to all the involved executive orders can be found here.

What do employers need to do?
Bars, rafting, and tubing businesses should keep an eye out for executive orders that may allow them to fully or partially re-open their businesses. Restaurants should begin reducing capacity in their restaurants.

Summary of State Laws (Q1 & Q2 2020)

Dallas Paid Sick Leave
This ordinance that went into effect on August 1, 2019 for employers with more than five employees has been blocked effective March 30, 2020 in a lawsuit contesting its legality.