For anyone who is employed or is employing people in Texas, you’ll want to keep your eye on the expansion of rights for employees that recently occurred. These changes have been in effect since September 2021, and they increase the potential liability of employers and certain individuals for cases of sexual harassment that occur at the worksite.
The business law updates to be aware of are found in Section 21.141 of the Texas Labor Code, shortened to S.B. 45. This section made three significant changes to the state laws around sexual harassment that were already in place.
The legal definition of an “employer”
One of the major changes is what it means to be an employer who is covered by Texas law relating to workplace harassment. The previous statute only applied to employers who had at least 15 employees who worked for a minimum of 20 weeks over the course of the last calendar year. With the changes, the law now applies to anyone who employs one or more employees.
A legal definition that changed as a result of S.B. 45 is the particular individuals who are liable when workplace harassment does occur. Under the new definition, this now includes anyone who acted in the direct interest of the employer as it related to the employee. This means that supervisors and others may be individually liable to the harassed employee.
Raised expectations for employers
Under the revised statute, more is now required of employers and business owners. The revised law requires “immediate and appropriate” action from employers when harassment happens. This seems to be a higher standard than the previous requirement of “prompt remedial action.”
It’s difficult to say at this point how the new language of this law will be interpreted until precedents are set. Notwithstanding, it seems clear that employers have more to think about than before when it comes to workplace harassment.