Millions of women (and men) across Texas could be impacted by a new law that took effect on September 1 – but not the one you likely have in mind. In an unexpected move from a typically very pro-business state, the Texas Legislature passed and Governor Abbott signed two bills (Senate Bill 45 and House Bill 21) that significantly expand sexual harassment protections for employees in Texas, making the state’s laws more robust than federal employment laws in some respects.

The changes to the Texas Commission on Human Rights Act apply prospectively to actions occurring on or after September 1, 2021, and expand liability to employers of any size in Texas as well as individuals and increase the time limit for filing a sexual harassment charge. The key changes affecting Texas employers (including those with no physical presence, but employing remote workers in the state) are discussed below.


Continue Reading #Y’allToo: Texas Expands Protections for Employee Sexual Harassment

Courts recognize the complication that exists when determining what constitutes actionable harassment where a healthcare employee is a caretaker for a patient with diminished capacity. The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals recently reviewed this issue in a Title VII case that highlights the risks posed to employers in the healthcare and social assistance industries by patient harassment and violence: Gardner v. CLC of Pascagoula, LLC, No. 17-60072 (February 6, 2019). In Gardner, the Fifth Circuit explained the risks to healthcare employers when it reversed summary judgment on a nurse assistant’s claim for hostile work environment and retaliation, holding that a genuine dispute of material fact existed as to whether an assisted living facility took reasonable precautions to prevent sexual harassment and physical violence by a resident.

Background

Gardner was a Certified Nursing Assistant employed at the Plaza Community Living Center, an assisted living facility, and “often worked with patients who were either physically combative or sexually aggressive.” Gardner had been assigned to work with a patient who had been diagnosed with multiple “physical and mental illnesses,” and had a reputation for groping female employees, as well as a history of violent and sexual behavior toward both patients and staff at the facility. Gardner alleged that she put up with propositioning and sexual assault by the patient on a regular basis, but that when she complained to the administrator at the facility, she was told to “put [her] big girl panties on and go back to work.”
Continue Reading Fifth Circuit Rules Harassment By Patients In The Healthcare Industry Deserves Special Consideration, But Employer May Still Be Liable

In the wake of the #MeToo Movement, New York, California and a number of other jurisdictions, both local and state, have passed new laws aimed at combatting sexual harassment in the workplace.  The New York laws require written sexual harassment prevention policy, assurance that all current and new employees, and even applicants for employment, receive a copy of the policy, and mandate annual sexual harassment training for all employees.  In addition, New York law now provides that employers can be liable for sexual harassment of nonemployees in the workplace, such as contractors, vendors and subcontractors.  Recent legislation prohibits employers from using mandatory arbitration provisions in employment contracts or nondisclosure agreements except when this is the victim preference.  Let me suggest that there are some important lessons to be learned from these laws.
Continue Reading Lessons From Changes to New York State’s Sexual Harassment Laws