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Texas employers should be aware that a new law with changes to the Texas Commission on Human Rights Act goes into effect today, September 1, 2021. The new law broadens employees’ rights regarding sexual harassment claims.
Who constitutes an “employer”?
Previously, for private employers, the TCHRA only applied to employers with 15 or more employees. Under the new law, for sexual harassment claims, an “employer” is a person who: a) employs one or more employees, or b) acts directly in the interests of an employer in relation to an employee.
According to the Statement of Intent filed with Senate Bill 45, the intent of this change was to ensure “all Texans enjoy protections against inappropriate behavior in the workplace,” regardless of the size of the employer.
Given this broadened definition of “employer,” all employers in Texas will be covered under the sexual harassment laws and the law may impose individual liability on managers, co-workers and other individuals.
What constitutes sexual harassment?
Under the new law, the definition of sexual harassment is an unwelcome sexual advance, request for sexual favor or any other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature if: a) submission to the same is made an explicit or implicit term or condition of employment; b) submission to the same is used as the basis for an employment decision; c) it has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with the employee’s work performance; or d) it has the purpose or effect of creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment.
The law also provides for employer liability if sexual harassment of an employee occurred, and the employer or employer’s agents or supervisors knew or should have known that the conduct constituting sexual harassment was occurring, and failed to take immediate and appropriate corrective action. The law does not define “immediate and appropriate corrective action,” and future litigation may center on whether an employer’s actions were sufficient to meet this standard.
How long does an employee have to file a claim?
The deadline for an individual to file a complaint of sexual harassment with the Texas Workforce Commission is extended to 300 days from the alleged sexual harassment. Previously, state sexual harassment complaints were subject to the general rule requiring complaints to be filed within 180 days of the alleged unlawful employment practice. The new legislation specifically excepts sexual harassment complaints from the general rule.
What does this mean for your company?
Because your business is now covered under this new law, it is important to train your managers and supervisors as well as revisit your sexual harassment policy. Chamberlain Hrdlicka stands ready to assist with the same.
Diana Gomez is a talented trial attorney with extensive experience in civil lawsuits in state and federal courts. She focuses on complex labor and employment disputes by providing a full range of employment law services to her ...
- Senior Counsel
Leslie Tan is an experienced attorney specializing in labor and employment matters and complex civil litigation. Ms. Tan enjoys guiding employers through challenging situations, from counseling on daily operations to ...