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Legislative Update: Assault, Harassment, Abuse, Neglect, and Misconduct

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The topics of sexual assault, abuse and neglect, educator misconduct, and sexual harassment were addressed in several bills passed during the 87th Regular Session of the Texas Legislature.

New legislation addressing sexual assault by a coach or tutor, release of information of an employee accused of educator misconduct, standard of reporting child abuse and neglect, and sexual harassment are described below.

Sexual Assault by Coach or Tutor (SB 1164)

Senate Bill (SB) 164 expands the circumstances that constitute the offense of sexual assault under Texas Penal Code §22.011 by adding two provisions to the definition of consent. Sexual assault is without consent if a coach or tutor causes a person to submit or participate by using influence or power to exploit the other person’s dependency. Additionally, if a person is a caregiver assisting a person with daily activities and causes a person to submit or participate by exploiting the other person’s dependency, sexual assault is without consent. (Effective 9/1/2021)

Educator Misconduct (HB 246)

House Bill (HB) 246 prohibits a school or operator of the school from releasing the name of a school employee accused of educator misconduct to the public until the employee is indicted for the offense. The information can be released before an indictment to conduct an investigation of the accusation or to report to the Texas Education Agency, another state agency, or local law enforcement or as otherwise required by law. The school or operator also may release the name of the accused to the school’s members or community in accordance with policy or procedure, or in accordance with religious law observed by the school.

The bill also broadens the definition of sexual conduct for purposes of educator misconduct. (Effective 9/1/2021)

Duty to Report Abuse and Neglect (HB 3379)

This bill changes the standard of reporting child abuse and neglect under Texas Family Code §261.101 from cause to believe to reasonable cause to believe. The timeline for a professional to report suspected abuse or neglect is now 48 hours from when the professional had reasonable cause to believe the abuse or neglect may have occurred. (Effective 9/1/2021)

Settlement of Sexual Harassment Claims (SB 282)

SB 282 prohibits the use of public money to settle or pay a sexual harassment claim made against a member of a governing body of a political subdivision, or an officer or employee of a political subdivision. For purposes of this law, school districts, open-enrollment charter schools, counties, municipalities, other special districts, and other subdivisions of the state are political subdivisions. (Effective 9/1/2021)

Statute of Limitations for Sexual Harassment Claims (HB 21)

This bill extends the statute of limitations for complaints of sexual harassment filed with the Texas Workforce Commission (TWC). The current filing deadline of 180 days is extended to 300 days for any complaints alleging sexual harassment. (Effective 9/1/2021)

Sexual Harassment Protection (SB 45)

SB 45 adds a new subchapter to Texas Labor Code Chapter 21 on sexual harassment. This bill provides that there is an unlawful employment action if sexual harassment occurs and the employer or the employer’s agents or supervisors know or should have known of the contact and fail to take immediate and appropriate corrective action.

Currently, protections against workplace sexual harassment in Texas apply only to persons who work for an employer with 15 or more employees.  With the addition of this law, sexual harassment by any employer, regardless of how many persons are employed, is unlawful. (Effective 9/1/2021)

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April Mabry
April Mabry
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April Mabry oversees HR Services training services, member library products, and the HRX newsletter. She has provided HR training and guidance to Texas public schools  since 1991. Mabry was a classroom teacher for 11 years in Texas and Michigan.

Mabry has a bachelor’s degree in education from the University of Michigan and certification as a professional in human resources (PHR) and is a SHRM-CP.

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