On September 1st, Texans will see major changes in Texas law on sexual harassment, when Senate Bill 45 and House Bill 21 go into effect. The bills were passed in the 2021 regular session of the Legislature.
Taken together, the bills extend the prohibition on sexual harassment to every employer in Texas, not just ones with 15 or more employees, and extend the statute of limitations for filing a charge of sexual harassment with the Texas Workforce Commission from 180 days to 300 days.
In another major change, an employer will be liable for sexual harassment it knew or should have known about unless it takes “immediate and appropriate corrective action,” as opposed to the old standard of “prompt and effective remedial action.” “Immediate action” will be a hard standard for employers to meet.
It is not yet clear if new language in the bills would permit personal liability (i.e., an award of damages) against an individual with a company, such as an officer, supervisor, or owner, as opposed to just liability against just a company, which has been the law in Texas. The courts will have to sort out that very important question.
The changes do not affect any other kind of employment discrimination under Chapter 21 of the Texas Labor Code, and do not affect federal law on sexual harassment under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Employers may wish to consider whether their policies, procedures, and training meet the demands of the new law on sexual harassment.