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New Texas Law Makes it Easier to File a Sexual Harassment Claim

Small businesses are critical to the success of the Texas economy, but until September 1, 2021, sexual harassment victims at these companies were barred from filing claims with the state’s Workforce Commission. However, the law has been expanded to give millions more employees the opportunity to take action against a boss or co-worker who is mistreating them. This change and another measure other effects of the legislation represent a major change in Texas sexual harassment law. 

Workers and employers should take heed of the new laws that will affect how sexual harassment is treated throughout the state in many ways, including:

  • Claims permitted against companies of any size — Under SB 45, Texas businesses with fewer than 15 employees are no longer exempt from sexual harassment complaints made to the state’s Workforce Commission. This is a critical shift in the law because smaller firms often lack the internal safeguards and personnel staff utilized by large corporations. Moreover, in a small workplace setting, it could be easier to isolate someone and pressure them into a sexual relationship.
  • Statute of limitations extended — Even individuals at larger companies will have more opportunity to file a sexual harassment action. Previously, the statute of limitations on a claim ran for 180 days. However, under legislation known as HB 21, an employee now has 300 days from the incident to seek relief through the Texas Workforce Commission. Victims frequently struggle with decision to come forward, and the extension also gives a claimant a longer “look back” period when detailing a pattern of offensive conduct.  
  • Small company compliance — Businesses who fell under the prior employee threshold might not have taken concrete steps to avert sexual harassment in their workplace. However, this legislation should spur companies with fewer than 15 workers to establish rules that reduce the likelihood of a claim being brought against them.

There are two main types of unlawful sexual harassment.  In quid pro quo cases, a supervisor or someone else in a superior position in the workplace pressures a victim into giving them sexual attention. This can be done by offering a subordinate benefits if they give in to the sexual advances or threatening them if they refuse. A hostile work environment claim can be brought if offensive sexual behavior in the workplace is severe or pervasive. The harasser does not have to hold an employment position superior to the victim.

Located in Houston, the Law Offices of David C. Holmes represents clients in sexual harassment matters and can advise you on how the new laws affect your situation. To schedule a free initial consultation, please call (713) 586-8862 or contact us online.