On September 1, 2021, two new laws went into effect in Texas that may significantly impact the way sexual harassment claims are handled. SB 45 expands on the definition of an employer, clarifies who may be held liable, and imposes what appear to be harsher liability standards. HB 21 gives greater protections to employees by increasing the amount of time they have to file a sexual harassment claim.
More About SB 45
As noted earlier, SB 45 is generally concerned with liability in a sexual harassment case.
First, it provides that an employer is defined as either:
- An employer with one or more employees, or
- A third-party affecting the interests of an employer regarding an employee
Next, the new law specifies when an employer has engaged in unlawful employment practices. It states that such conduct occurs when an employer, supervisor, or agent knew or should have known about an alleged sexual harassment incident. Additionally, the employer, supervisor, or agent did not take immediate and appropriate steps to remedy the situation.
The wording of the new law has serious implications for more than just the employer. Supervisors, coworkers, and other third parties can be held liable in a sexual harassment case whether they engaged in the conduct or were negligent in stopping it. As complaints come in under the new law, these individuals will possibly be named as defendants to prevent the case from moving to federal jurisdiction.
More About HB 21
With HB 21, the statute of limitations for filing a sexual harassment claim. Employees now have 300 days after the alleged offense to submit a complaint to the Texas Workforce Commission. Previously, they had only 180 days. Note that the 300-day deadline applies only to sexual harassment cases. All other claims concerning misconduct in the workplace are still under the 180-day filing deadline.
Because both small and large businesses are affected by the new laws and employees have more time to file claims, an increase in sexual harassment cases is likely. It is important for anyone involved in these types of matters to seek the advice and counsel of an experienced and knowledgeable attorney.
At Scott H. Palmer, P.C., our Dallas team has over 140 years of combined experience and stays current on changes in Texas’s labor laws to provide our clients with comprehensive representation.