On September 2021, Texas significantly expanded employer obligations under state sexual harassment laws. Under the new laws, SB 45 and  HB 21, Texas laws have changed. Employers of every size are recommended to provide Texas sexual harassment prevention training to their employees and supervisors.

What are the changes to the Texas law?

Texas now:

  • Allows victims to sue employers as well as supervisors and managers for sexual harassment
  • Extends the time in which employees can file a sexual harassment charge
  • Expands employer liability for sexual harassment where the employer does not take “immediate and appropriate corrective action.”

What is the new statute of limitations?

An employee must first file a charge of discrimination with the Texas Workforce Commission within 180 days of the alleged unlawful employment practice.  With the enactment of HB 21, Texas employees have a significantly longer period of time to file their complaint alleging sexual harassment.  Under this new law, for a sexual-harassment complaint based on conduct occurring on or after September 1st, employees will be allowed to file their charge with the Texas Workforce Commission within 300 days after the date the alleged sexual harassment occurred.  

What is the expanded employer definition?

Previously an employee could only bring a claim of harassment or discrimination based on protected characteristics (including sexual harassment) against their employer, if the employer has at least 15 employees.  

SB 45 defines an "employer" as a person who employs more than one employee.  What does this mean now? All employers in Texas may be held liable for sexual-harassment claims asserted under the Texas Labor Code as of September 1st, 2021.

What is the employer response standard?

The new standards provide a potential defense to employers who take prompt action in response to an employee complaint. However, this is constituted as "immediate and appropriate corrective action". This is not defined in the new law. That means that the exact meaning of this phrase could be the subject of litigation and will be a disputed issue until it is addressed by the Texas courts.

What changes do Texas employers need to make?

Robust sexual harassment prevention training is recommended for all employees. The training should cover all policies and reporting procedures as well as methods for sexual harassment prevention in the workplace. Sources recommend that training for Texas-based employers is relevant to their industry as well.

Additionally, SHRM recommends that all employers in Texas, regardless of size, should review and revise their handbook policies addressing discrimination and harassment, in order to ensure compliance with the new Texas sexual-harassment laws. Texas employer policies should clearly state the reporting procedures for employees. It should also outline the steps for an "immediate" investigation of sexual-harassment complaints. This includes appropriate corrective action.