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Texas Expands Employer Liability for Sexual Harassment

Beginning on September 1, 2021, more Texas employers will be liable for sexual harassment. Currently, employers with less than 15 employees are not liable for sexual harassment under state law. Under the new law, an employer who employs “one or more employees” or “acts directly in the interests of an employer in relation to an employee” may be liable for sexual harassment. With this expanded definition, supervisors or other individuals associated with employers could be named as individual defendants and held liable.

Beyond the expanded definition, Texas has also enhanced the standard for employer responses to sexual harassment. Employers (or their agents and supervisors) face liability if they “know or should have known that the conduct constituting sexual harassment was occurring” and “fail to take immediate and appropriate corrective action.” The current standard for Texas employers requires only that the corrective action be “prompt.” The law does not further define what qualifies as immediate and appropriate corrective action.

Lastly, the statute of limitations for employees bringing these claims has been lengthened. The former 180 days statute of limitations will now be 300 days from the date of the alleged harassment. This change applies only to sexual harassment claims for conduct occurring after September 21, 2021. Other discrimination claims must still be filed within 180 days.