As of September ’21, Texas expanded the definition of sexual harassment, heightened the standard of an employer’s response to complaints, and placed responsibility on individuals for failing to address sexual misconduct. If you are facing workplace harassment, our Austin sexual harassment lawyer is here to help.
Texas Harassment Laws
In Texas, workplace sexual harassment is now defined as any sexually verbal or physical act that has the purpose or effect of creating an offensive, intimidating, or hostile work environment. According to the statute of limitations, an employee must file a sexual harassment charge with the Texas Workforce Commission within 300 days after the incident. Previously, employees could only report sexual harassment if their employer employed at least 15 employees. However, under the new law, any employee of an employer with one or more employees may report incidents of sexual harassment. Meaning now all employers may be held liable for their actions.
Additionally, the new law expands the term “employer” even further to include anyone who acts directly in the interests of an employer concerning an employee. So, human resource professionals, managers, supervisors, other employees, and third parties may be held liable for their actions in the workplace. Nonetheless, the new law only affects any conduct alleged to have occurred on or after September 1, 2021.
What constitutes sexual harassment?
Texas defines sexual harassment as any unwelcome sexual advance, request for a sexual favor, or any other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature.
These actions might give rise to liability if:
- the conduct creates a hostile work environment
- submission to the conduct is contrived as a condition of employment
- the employee is disciplined for rejection of or submission to the conduct
- the conduct unreasonable interferes with the employee’s work performance
Furthermore, the alleged conduct can occur in a myriad of circumstances, including the following circumstances:
- the victim doesn’t have to be the person harassed but extends to anyone personally affected by the offensive conduct
- the harasser, as well as the victim, may be a man or woman; the victim doesn’t have to be the opposite sex of the harasser
- unlawful sexual harassment may occur without discharge of the victim nor economic injury
- ogling, leering, or otherwise inappropriately gazing at co-workers
- making sexual innuendoes, jokes, comments, and questions
- preforming sexually suggestive sounds and gestures
- engaging in tickling, stroking, patting, squeezing, and other touching
- repeatedly asking for sexual favors &/or dates
- sexually ridiculing a co-worker
What should a victim of workplace sexual harassment do?
First, if possible, the victim should inform the harasser directly that the conduct is unwelcome and must stop. Then, the victim should use every employer grievance system or complaint mechanism available to them to report the harassment. As mentioned, victims also have 300 days to report the harassment to the Texas Workforce Commission.
During a workplace sexual harassment investigation, the EEOC looks at the record in full, including:
- the nature of the sexual advances
- the context in which the alleged conduct occurred
Determinations of allegations are informed by the above facts and reviewed on a case-by-case basis. Generally, when sexual harassment occurs at work, it negatively affects the employee’s psyche and performance. If you are experiencing sexual harassment at work, don’t despair; there are now pathways to ensure your protection.
Seek Representation by an Austin Sexual Harassment Lawyer
Navigating the process of sexual harassment claims can be emotionally draining. We’re here to help alleviate your stress and deliver justice. Give us a call for a free consultation, and we’ll begin strategizing your path forward.
Our clients receive individualized attention from an attorney, not an assistant or paralegal. Although we handle a wide range of legal issues, our attorneys are limited to practicing a few practice areas to give you the specialized care you need. We are compassionate attorneys that will listen closely to ensure your voice is heard and to implement potential strategies that most other attorney will miss. Call us for a free consult with our real estate attorney to see why we vastly differ than most law firms.
- seeking the relief you need
- evaluating and tailoring a creative strategy for your individual case
- explaining the nuances and subtleties of the law in a clear and concise manner
- effectively communicating with you in a way that will exceed your expectations
- and aggressively protecting and defending your rights
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