Two bills that take effect on September 1, 2021 expand Texas’s sexual harassment laws.
- S.B. 45 – expands existing law to include all employers with one or more employees, and individual supervisors and coworkers may now be held personally liable for workplace sexual harassment.
- H.B. 21, – expands the statute of limitations for sexual harassment claims from 180 days to 300 days following the date of the alleged harassment.
S.B. 45 specifies that the law now applies to any employer that employs one or more employees or acts directly in the interests of an employer in relation to an employee (the previous threshold was 15 employees). As a result, all Texas employers are covered under the amended law, and individual supervisors and coworkers may be held liable for workplace sexual harassment.
The law covers both quid pro quo sexual harassment – harassment that is implicitly or explicitly made a condition of an individual’s employment – and hostile work environment sexual harassment. Sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and any other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature that falls into one of these categories, can constitute harassment under the amended law.
The law also imposes a more stringent duty on employers to proactively identify and remedy sexual harassment in the workplace. Specifically, if an employee experiences sexual harassment and the employer, or its agent or supervisor, knows or should have known about the harassment and fails to take immediate and appropriate corrective action, the employer is in violation of S.B. 45.
In response to these new laws, we strongly recommend the following actions:
- Your employee handbook should be updated to reflect the changes. If Melita manages your employee handbook, we will make these updates for your 2022 handbook.
- If you don’t already require your employees to take anti-harassment training as part of their onboarding and subsequent re-training every 2 years, you should consider doing so.
- Make sure all managers understand the importance of immediately reporting anything that may meet the definition of sexual harassment.
- If Melita provides you with Employee Relations support, be sure to immediately report all incidents via your MyMelita portal so we can assist you with the appropriate investigative actions.