Texas Increases Protection for Employees Filing Sexual Harassment Complaints
Texas Governor Greg Abbott recently signed two new bills (Senate Bill 45 and House Bill 21) that strengthen protection for all employees who make allegations of sexual harassment under Chapter 21 of the Texas Labor Code (Chapter 21). Both laws will come into force on September 1. With the passage of these new laws, Texas employers can expect significant changes related to sexual harassment complaints, including a broader definition of who is considered an “employer,” a stronger standard for employers. responding to internal complaints of sexual harassment; and extending the statute of limitations to file with the state agency.
Who is considered an “employer? “
Prior to the passage of Senate Bill 45, to be considered an employer under Chapter 21, a business had to have 15 or more employees and only the entity could be held responsible. However, Senate Bill 45 expands the definition of an employer to include any person or entity that employs one or more employees, or “acts directly in the interest of an employer vis-à-vis an employee”. By expanding the definition, companies or individuals who employ even one employee as well as individual supervisors can be held liable for allegations of sexual harassment. Prior to this change, small businesses and malicious individuals could escape liability for sexual harassment lawsuits by arguing that they did not meet the definition of “employer”. With this change, this defense will no longer be available.