The Texas Legislature recently passed Senate Bill 45 (SB 45) paving the way for any Texas employer – of any size – to be sued for sexual harassment in the workplace. The bill also expands liability to include individual actors as well as businesses. As a result, SB 45 now provides protection greater than what is afforded under federal law to victims of sexual harassment in the workplace.
Essential Changes to the Code
Previously, the Texas Labor Code set limits for liability related to sexual harassment claims in similar fashion to the provisions of federal law. The Code applied to employers of a minimum of 15 employees and pertained only to businesses (not individuals). The revision to the Code notes that liability now exists a) if there is a claim of sexual harassment, and b) the employer
- knows or should have known that the conduct was occurring, and
- fails to take “immediate and appropriate corrective action.”
In addition to SB 45, the Legislature also passed Senate Bill 282 (SB 282) which gives more time for an employee to file a charge of sexual harassment with the Texas Workforce Commission Civil Rights Division. The prior window of 180 days has been increased to 300 days from the date of the alleged conduct. SB 282 also goes into effect September 1, 2021.
What Texas Employers Should Do
In light of this expansion of liability not only on businesses but individuals, it would be important for employers to review their current policies and means of informing all employees of their responsibilities regarding workplace conduct. Additionally, policies and education on workplace conduct (accepted and prohibited) may need to be re-delivered to current employees as well as re-designed for delivery to new/future employees. Owners and Human Resources professionals would also be wise to review and update as needed any processes for documenting complaints and the follow up procedures.
Our Labor and Employment Law attorneys are available to help you manage updates to your policies, handbooks, documentation and compliance, as well as deliver periodic training through in-person and virtual presentations.