Generally speaking, there are two primary types of legal claims that an individual may file after they have been sexually harassed by someone affiliated with their place of work. These claims are recognized by a federal law known as Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (“Title VII”). Briefly, Title VII is just one of the many laws that aim to protect employees from sexual harassment and discrimination in the workplace.
According to the provisions of Title VII, the two main types of sexual harassment claims can be described as follows:
- Quid pro quo sexual harassment: “Quid pro quo” is a Lain phrase that loosely translates to “tit for tat.” It essentially means that I will give you something that you want in exchange for something that I want. In the context of sexual harassment, it can mean that a worker will need to perform sexual favors for a supervisor or boss in exchange for an employee benefit, such as a raise or job promotion.
- Hostile work environment sexual harassment: Unlike quid pro quo sexual harassment, incidents of hostile work environment sexual harassment can be carried out by any worker in the company. This type of claim also requires the victim to demonstrate a pattern of creating a sexually charged or offensive atmosphere in the workplace.
Regardless of the type of sexual harassment claim that an employee files, they must be able to provide sufficient evidence of the sexual harassment and must demonstrate that they suffered actual harm as a result of being subjected to sexual harassment in the workplace. Damages may include injuries, such as lost wages, loss of earning potential, loss of a promotion, or loss of their job.
In addition, employment sexual harassment can occur in places other than the office. For example, if this kind of behavior takes place during a company outing or while at happy hour, an employee may still have a claim under the law. Sexual harassment injuries can also happen to anyone, no matter their gender or position within a company. A claim can even be established between two members of the same or opposite genders.
Thus, if you believe you have been subjected to sexual harassment in the workplace, you should contact a local sexual harassment lawyer for further legal advice. A lawyer can discuss the best way to proceed with your particular sexual harassment claim and can determine whether the laws in Texas state support other types of sexual harassment claims aside from those mentioned in the above list under Title VII.
What Constitutes Harassment in Texas?
The grounds for harassment charges in Texas slightly differ from those provided under Title VII. Specifically, Texas harassment laws cover both civil and criminal conduct of this nature.
In other words, while the majority of sexual harassment claims tend to be resolved outside of the criminal justice system, Texas state law may require harassment claims to be tried before a criminal court if the conduct was intended to cause one of the reactions listed in the Texas criminal statute.
Some common grounds that may constitute harassment in the state of Texas include:
- Sending inappropriate and romantic gifts, messages, or electronic communications to another individual;
- Harassing an individual via email, text, or phone calls;
- Physically touching a person in a way that makes them or others uncomfortable;
- Making unwelcome sexual advances towards another person;
- Threatening an individual when sexual contact or advances are denied;
- Requesting sexual favors from another person in exchange for benefits; and/or
- Messaging, displaying, or using inappropriate language or sexually explicit images that either offends others or targets a specific individual.
Texas employment laws may also allow a class action lawsuit to be filed against an employer by employees who were subjected to sexual harassment incidents in the workplace. This usually occurs when there are numerous workers who have a same or similar sexual harassment claim against an employer or supervisor and can pass the certification test required to file a class action lawsuit in a Texas court.
In addition, recent changes to Texas state laws on sexual harassment have made it easier for employees to file sexual harassment claims against an employer. While this may be good news for many Texas employees, it has left many employers and other upper-level workers in Texas open to legal risks and lawsuits. Some examples of changes that can negatively affect Texas employers under the state’s new laws may include:
- The fact that the term “employer” was expanded to cover supervisors, HR professionals, business owners, managers, and a few other types of employees when determining liability;
- The new law increases the amount of time that a worker has to file a sexual harassment lawsuit against an employer or another liable worker under the Texas Labor Code;
- The statute now affords protections to workers against third parties affiliated with the company, meaning that workers can sue a third party for harassment (e.g., vendors, consultants, outside businesses, etc.); and
- Employers are now required to meet a heightened standard under the amended Texas harassment statute, which had originally provided a possible legal defense for employers against such claims.
As may be evident from the above information, Texas is gradually becoming a more employee-friendly state.
How Can I File a Harassment Claim in Texas?
The process for filing harassment charges in Texas generally requires complying with the following steps:
- A Texas employee must first file a harassment claim with the Texas Workforce Commission (TWC), which is a government agency that oversees issues in the workplace. The employee will have 300 days from the date of when the incident occurred to file their harassment claim with the TWC before they are barred from bringing a claim.
- The TWC will review the employee’s claim, establish which facts are relevant and true, review evidence, and conduct an investigation of the employee’s workplace to determine whether any acts of harassment occurred. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), which is the federal government agency that oversees issues in the workplace, may review the employee’s harassment claim as well at this stage.
- The TWC will next rule on the results of its investigation. If they do not find in favor of the employee or if they fail to resolve the issue to an employee’s liking, then the employee may proceed with filing a private lawsuit against their employer in court.
- The employer will be required to adhere to the steps of bringing a lawsuit in court. Thus, at this point, they should retain legal counsel to further assist them with this process. If numerous employees have been subjected to the same or similar harassment conduct as the original employee, a harassment lawyer may also recommend filing a class action lawsuit.
Do I Need a Lawyer for Help With Texas Harassment Laws?
It is generally recommended that you consult with a local harassment lawyer before you file a claim for harassment in the state of Texas. An experienced harassment lawyer who practices law within your county in the state of Texas will already be familiar with the changes to Texas harassment laws. They can advise you of your rights under the new amendments.
Your lawyer can also assist you in navigating the proper procedures for filing a sexual harassment claim against your Texas employer and can ensure that you comply with all legal requirements. In addition, if you need legal representation in court or at any other proceedings related to your claim, your lawyer will be able to provide these types of legal services as well.