Hi, I’m Jamie Gilmore, an employment attorney with Bailey & Galyen. On September 1, 2021, Texas has expanded sexual harassment protections for employees beyond those offered under existing state and federal law. As of September 1, 2021, individuals and all employers, which now includes those employers with only one employee rather than only employers with 15 or more employees) may now face liability for sexual harassment claims in the State.
The law amends an employer’s liability for sexual harassment claims and permits employees to file their claims within 300 days of the alleged harassment, nearly double the limitations period on most state discrimination and harassment claims. This is a huge win for Texas employees.
The new laws aim to provide protection against sexual harassment by nearly all employers and their agents. The law defines “employer,” for purposes of sexual harassment claims, as a person who “employs one or more employees” or “acts directly in the interests of an employer in relation to an employee.” This means individuals, such as managers, supervisors, and coworkers, may also be liable under the new laws. These individuals may not have been liable under the previous laws.
Under these new laws, an employer may be liable if sexual harassment occurs and it or its agents “know or should have known that the conduct constituting harassment was occurring” and “fail to take immediate and appropriate corrective actions.” This is an expansion of the previous standard and benefits employees who have been sexually harassed at the workplace.
The law specifically outlines conduct that constitutes sexual harassment. Any “unwelcome sexual advance, request for a sexual favor, or any other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature” might give rise to liability if submission to the conduct is made a term or condition of employment; the employee is disciplined for submission to or rejection of the conduct; the conduct unreasonably interferes with the employee’s work performance; or the conduct creates a hostile working environment.
The new Texas laws only apply to conduct that is alleged to have occurred on or after September 1, 2021. This means that any sexual harassment that occurred before then is controlled by the previous state and federal laws.
At Bailey & Galyen, we offer free consultation with experienced employment attorneys and staff to give you a legal assessment and offer a path forward. Call me to discuss your employment situation today.