Effective September 1, 2021, Texas has joined a growing list of states that have passed enhanced legal protections for victims of workplace sexual harassment. S.B. 45 amends current law relating to the prohibition against sexual harassment in the workplace. The new law is expansive in that it now affords protection to any employee working for an employer that employs even one employee; previously, only employers of 15 or more employees were covered by the Texas anti-discrimination law.
The law uses a definition of sexual harassment that is identical to the long-existing definition of sexual harassment in the regulations issued years ago by the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission: S.B. 45 states that it is a prohibited employment practice if an employee experiences sexual harassment, and the employer, its agents, or supervisors either know or should have known and failed to take immediate corrective action.
Texas additionally has passed a related bill, HB 21, which is also effective on September 1. This law lengthens the time within which a victim of sex harassment can file a claim with the Texas Workforce Commission, from 180 to 300 days. Interestingly, HB 21 does not extend the filing period for claims of harassment or discrimination based on other existing protected categories such as race, color, religion, and disability.With these two new laws on the books Texas employers have even more reason to review their workplace policies and internal complaint procedures. In addition, supervisors need to be trained on what to do so an employer can promptly discover and remedy any illegal harassment occurring in its workplace.