Senate Bill 45 and House Bill 21 Expand Sexual Harassment Protections
Texas Governor Greg Abbot recently signed Senate Bill 45 and House Bill 21, which offer greater employee protections, specifically in regards to sexual harassment.
SB 45 and HB 21 expand protections for Texas employees asserting sexual harassment claims. Here, sexual harassment attorney Dan A. Atkerson explains how these bills expand protections provided by current employment laws, and lets employees in Allen, TX, Plano, TX, Frisco, TX, and surrounding areas know when these bills will go into effect.
Longer Statute of Limitations
Under the current Texas Labor Code, employees making claims of harassment or discrimination have 180 days to file a claim with the Texas Workforce Commission. The terms of House Bill 21 nearly double that statute of limitations. Under these new guidelines, employees will have 300 days from the date of the alleged sexual harassment to file a claim with the Texas Workforce Commission. It is important to note that this expanded statute of limitations applies only to claims of sexual harassment, and not to other claims of discrimination.
Broader Definition of Employer
Based on the current definition of “employer,” Texas law allows a claim of sexual harassment to be filed against an employer who has at least 15 employees. Senate Bill 45 changes the definition of employer to classify it as a “person who employs one or more employees.” This broader definition holds virtually any employer in the state of Texas liable for sexual harassment claims.
A further change in the definition of employer (in regards to sexual harassment claims only) includes the addition of any person who “acts directly in the interests of an employer in relation to an employee.” This expansion opens the door for more individual liability. Essentially, under this expanded definition, a supervisor, manager, human resources professional, or other third party could be named individually in a sexual harassment claim, rather than the claim having to be filed against the broader employer.
Heightened Standard for Employers’ Response
A final change brought about by SB 45 is a heightened standard for employers’ response to sexual harassment claims. The new law states that an employer commits an unlawful employment act if an employee is sexually harassed and the employer: “(1) know or should have known that the conduct constituting sexual harassment was occurring; and (2) fail to take immediate and appropriate corrective action.”
While the bill does not specify what qualifies as “immediate and appropriate corrective action,” it holds employers to a higher standard than the current law, which requires employers to take prompt remedial action against sexual harassment.
When Do SB 45 and HB 21 Go Into Effect?
SB 45 and HB 21 have both already been signed by Governor Abbot, but they have not yet gone into effect. The expanded protections officially become law on September 1, 2021.
If you have faced sexual harassment at work, you may be due financial compensation for resulting damages. To discuss your case with sexual harassment attorney Dan A. Atkerson, send us a message online, or call (214) 383-3606 and schedule a personal consultation.