If you are employed in the state of Texas and are being sexually harassed at work, your employer is legally required to take appropriate action to address the issue. Federal sexual harassment laws generally apply to employers with 15 or more employees.
However, under amendments to the Texas Labor Code, state sexual harassment laws were expanded to include small businesses when it comes to sexual harassment claims. Under Texas’ new definition of “employer” for sexual harassment claims now includes:
- A person employing one or more employees; or
- A person acting directly in the interest of an employer in relation to an employee (e.g., supervisors or managers).
How long do workers have to file a sexual harassment charge?
Employees planning to file a charge of sexual harassment have a limited amount of time to do so. Under House Bill 21 in Texas, you now have 300 days from the date of the alleged sexual harassment to file your charge (same as Federal law) with the Texas Workforce Commission. However, other discrimination and harassment claims still have a 180-day deadline.
When is an employer held liable for sexual harassment?
Employers are not automatically at fault for an employee being sexually harassed, just because it occurred at work. However, if an employee was sexually harassed at work and filed a complaint, an employer may be liable if:
- Employer or employer’s agents knew or should have known about the harassing conduct; and
- Employer or employer’s agents/supervisors failed to take “immediate and appropriate corrective action” to remedy the situation.
Employers should make sure that their sexual harassment policies are up to date and consistent with current Texas law. Employers should also make sure their supervisors and managers are aware that they could be held individually liable for failing to take proper and immediate action to handle a complaint. Supervisors and managers should also be trained on what steps they are required to take.
Employers who fail to act in accordance with Texas employment laws may be required to pay compensation to the wronged employee. These damages may cover back and front pay and benefits, as well as emotional distress.