Filing a Sexual Harassment Claim in Texas Just Got Easier
As of September 1, two new laws that stand to dramatically affect victims of workplace sexual harassment went into effect, Texas SB 45 and HB 21.
Texas SB 45 and HB 21 offer great changes to our former sexual harassment laws, namely:- More employers will be subject to Texas’ prohibition against sexual harassment in the workplace, and
- Victims of sexual harassment will have more time to file a claim with the Texas Workforce Commission (TWC).
In this post, we’ll take a brief look at these recent changes, in comparison to the former laws, and how they could improve access to justice for workers. Let’s start with (arguably) the biggest change, SB 45, and how it will protect more workers from harassment.
More Employers Must Comply With Sexual Harassment LawsPrior to September 1, 2021, only employers with 15 or more employees had to comply with Texas’ workplace sexual harassment laws. Victims of harassment in small businesses with fewer than 15 employees had virtually no recourse for their claims. Now, any employer with one or more workers can be held liable for workplace sexual harassment. This change will force Texas businesses of all sizes to proactively guard against sexual harassment. It will also give more victims of harassment the ability to file a claim with the TWC.
Additionally, SB 45 stipulates that employers and individual managers who know or should have known about sexual harassment must take “immediate and appropriate corrective action.” How this amendment will play out in courts is up for debate, but it definitely aims to encourage prompt action as individual employees and corporations can be held liable for a failure to act. Employers of all sizes would be wise to institute sexual harassment policies and train supervisors to identify and respond to certain red flags.
Victims of Sexual Harassment Have Longer to File a ClaimAnother favorable change to sexual harassment laws is HB 21, which expands the statute of limitations for filing a claim with the TWC. Like most other workplace discrimination complaints (including racial and religious discrimination), victims of sexual harassment used to have 180 days to file a claim after the incident that gave rise to the claim occurred. As of September 1, victims of sexual harassment now have 300 days to file a claim with the TWC. The statute of limitations has not changed for other forms of harassment or discrimination.
Hopefully, this change will empower more victims of sexual harassment to come forward, because they have more time to speak with an attorney and consider their legal options. Victims of sexual harassment, in particular, often struggle over whether or not to file a claim. They may even question whether their experience even qualifies as harassment. Now, victims of workplace sexual harassment do not need to feel as rushed to file a claim, although time is still of the essence when it comes to preserving evidence.