In recent years, many states have started increasing protections against workplace sexual harassment. As of September 1, Texas has become the latest state to join this important and ever-growing movement.
Here are two important things you need to know about these new Texas employment laws.
1. A Longer Statute of Limitations for Filing a Sexual Harassment Complaint
Texas has extended the statute of limitations for employees to file a sexual harassment complaint with the Texas Workforce Commission. Previously, individuals had 180 days to file a complaint. In the wake of House Bill 21, which was signed into law on June 9, 2021, individuals now have 300 days to file a sexual harassment complaint from the date that the alleged incident occurred.
The new statute of limitations applies only to sexual harassment claims that occurred on or after September 1, 2021. Further, this extension applies solely to a Texas sexual harassment claim. Other discrimination claims, such as claims based on disability, sex, and race, are still subject to the 180-day statute of limitations.
2. An Expansive Definition of Who Is an “Employer”
Another new Texas law has expanded the definition of who counts as an employer for sexual harassment complaints.
Before, employers with 15 or more employees were defined as employers under the law. Senate Bill 45, which was signed into law on May 30, 2021, changed the definition of an employer. The new law suggests that anyone who employs at least one person can be an employer. Additionally, anyone who acts “directly in the interests of an employer in relation to an employee” may be deemed an employer under the Texas sexual harassment law.
Changing the definition of an employer from an individual with 15 or more employees to its current standard will have a seismic effect. Under the new law, many more individuals will now potentially be held liable for a sexual harassment claim. In fact, the change in the definition could also extend liability to other individuals, such as co-workers and supervisors, among others.
As a result of this new definition, coupled with the extension of the statute of limitations, there will likely be an increase in workplace sexual harassment claims in Texas in the coming years.
Next Steps for Texas Employers
Now that Texas has increased protections against workplace sexual harassment, it is important for HR and compliance professionals in companies of all sizes to be vigilant. For starters, this means taking impactful measures such as holding anti-harassment employee training as well as updating a company’s sexual harassment policy.
Additionally, when sexual harassment claims in the workplace arise, companies need to address them immediately. Companies should also ensure that they have up-to-date Texas labor law posters that reflect the most recent changes to Texas employment laws.
Poster Compliance Center can help. We constantly monitor state employment laws, as well as changes that may affect your labor law posters, so you don’t have to worry about staying in compliance. Check out our 1-Year Compliance subscription plan, so you don’t have to worry about keeping up to date on all of the changes in Texas employment laws.