Additional Liability for Sexual Harassment Claims


This past session, the Texas Legislature passed SB 45, which expands employer liability for sexual harassment in the workplace.  SB 45 expands Chapter 21 of the Texas Labor Code, which codifies various anti-discrimination and anti-retaliation measures and mirrors the federal anti-discrimination laws.  Formerly, in order for an employer to be liable under Chapter 21, it had to have at least 15 employees.  Now employers with one or more employees can be held liable for sexual harassment under Chapter 21.  (They still need to have 15 employees to be held liable for other forms of harassment, discrimination or retaliation.) In addition, persons who act directly in the interests of an employer in relation to an employee can also be liable for sexual harassment.  This phrase, which is part of the definition for an employer under the Fair Labor Standards Act, could provide for liability against others who act in a supervisory capacity, for example, alleged joint employers, owners of the business employing the employee, franchisors as it applies to franchisee employees, and perhaps even individual supervisors.

In addition, the Legislature also passed HB 21, which expands the time period for someone to file a charge of discrimination for a sexual harassment complaint.  Formerly, the complainant had 180 days to file a complaint for sexual harassment, now the complainant has 300 days to file such a complaint. The 180 day deadline still applies to other complaints.  Governor Abbott signed both of these measures into law and they take effect September 1, 2021.

This could significantly change the scope of liability for sexual harassment claims, especially as it pertains to the expanded definition of employer.

Let us know if we can help.

Have a great 4th,

Jack, Elizabeth and Jim

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