M2D Partner Corey Devine Featured in The Dallas Morning News and Law360 Articles on Texas’ New Sexual Harassment Laws

Muskat, Mahony & Devine partner Corey Devine has been featured in The Dallas Morning News and Law360 discussing Texas’ new sexual harassment laws that went into effect September 1. The Dallas Morning News article, “Texas small businesses are no longer immune from sexual harassment claims” and Law360’s “What to Know About Texas’ New Sexual Harassment Laws” (subscription required) highlight the laws’ expansion of sexual harassment protections for employees in the workplace.

Both articles discuss the changes to Chapter 21 of the Texas Labor Code, which include:

• Expanding potential liability to businesses that employ even one worker
• Expanding potential liability to individuals, such as managers, who act directly in the interests of an employer
• Extending the time limit for filing a sexual harassment charge to 300 days

The new harassment protections came as a surprise in a state that has a reputation for its employer-friendly approach to workplace laws.

Mr. Devine told The Dallas Morning News that because plaintiffs now have the ability to file claims against individuals and companies with fewer than 15 people, they may have more incentive to go to state court.

“I think that we’ll see a marked increase in the number of charges of discrimination filed under Texas law. This will bring the number of people who are aggrieved into the fold.”

Mr. Devine told Law360 that this is the first instance he’s aware of in which Texas has regulated nondiscrimination “in a way that’s more restrictive than federal law.”

“Texas, generally, is not one of those states where you have to check state law because typically it follows federal law. Does this mean Texas is the new California? No. But it’s really significant.”

Mr. Devine told Law360 that the law’s requirement that employers and managers take “immediate and appropriate corrective action” may impose a standard more rigorous than what is applicable under federal law. He said it will take time to sort out the difference.

“I don’t know about a jury trial, but there’s going to have to be some cases litigated and some opinions from appellate courts to untangle exactly what that means,” he told Law360.

“If I had to point out a place where employers stumble, it is on the promptness of response to sex harassment claims. It’s not because there’s no desire to respond promptly, it’s just they don’t have the mechanisms in place to jump on this as soon as it happens.”

Mr. Devine told The Dallas Morning News that with recent confusion over reopening during the COVID-19 pandemic, it is likely many small businesses are unaware of the law change. “Being found to be liable or sexual harassment, particularly for an individual, can be career-ending,” he said.

Mr. Devine and the entire Muskat, Mahony & Devine team have been following the changes and what they mean for employers.

M2D partner Michelle Mahony has created a list of key points employers should know about the new laws. To read her article, “Changes to Sexual Harassment Laws in Texas Go Into Effect on September 1, 2021” click here.