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  • Writer's pictureJustin Sparks

Sexual Harassment Statute of Limitations | Texas Laws and Time Limits

Texas has set strict laws for handling sexual harassment cases. Offenders are subject to stringent penalties, and victims are often allowed to recover compensation for multiple damages through a civil lawsuit if their allegations are proven true.


However, people who experience sexual harassment must take legal action against the at-fault party within a specific period known as "the statutes of limitations." Otherwise, their cases can be dismissed.


This article explores the laws that define the statutes of limitations for sexual harassment claims in Texas and how this time limit may impact the outcome. Sparks Law Firm can also share information on a tolling statute of limitations Texas.


The Definition of Sexual Harassment

The Definition of Sexual Harassment


Under federal law, the term "sexual harassment" refers to unwelcome sexual advances or behaviors, whether physical or verbal, that make victims feel unsafe or uncomfortable.


This type of harassment can take many forms but doesn't always have to involve behaviors or actions directed at a specific person. Insults or negative comments with sexual connotations to female groups, for example, may fall into this category.


Where Does Sexual Harassment Occur?

Although it often occurs in the workplace, sexual harassment can happen in multiple settings, including learning environments (schools or universities). The harasser can be a direct or indirect manager, coworker, colleague, peer, or teacher.


What Does Sexual Harassment Look Like?

Sexual harassment is often described as gender-based discrimination and a human rights violation. It can occur in different circumstances.


The following are some of the most common forms of sexual harassment:


  • Physical acts of sexual assault

  • Unwelcome sexual advances

  • Unwanted physical contact

  • Requests for sexual favors

  • Employment or advancement conditions dependent on sexual favors

  • Verbal harassment, such as comments with sexual connotations (jokes about sexual orientation or acts)

  • Unwanted sexually explicit content, such as photos, text messages, or images


Differences Between Sexual Harassment and Other Sex Crimes

Although "sexual harassment" refers to different actions or conducts, it doesn't cover acts that can be classified as crimes, including aggravated sexual assault.


The term "sexual assault" describes behaviors or acts, typically physical, that aren't consented to by victims. Unlike sexual harassment, which is often handled under civil laws, it's usually considered a criminal offense.


Examples of Sexual Assault

These are some examples of sexual assault:


  • Attempted rape

  • Penetration of another person's body without their consent or rape

  • Unwanted sexual touching

  • Unwanted or forced fondling

  • Forced sexual acts, such as oral sex or penetration of the offender's body


The Statute of Limitations for Sexual Harassment in Texas


According to the Texas Labor Code, potential and existing employees who are victims of sexual harassment can take legal action against the perpetrator and pursue compensation in court.


However, a sexual harassment claim can only be filed if the statute of limitations hasn't expired. Under Texas state law, the time limit for these cases used to be 180 days but was recently extended. Sparks Law Firm also has more information on an embezzlement statute of limitations Texas.


As of 2021, individuals can take legal action against another party and file a claim with the Texas Workforce Commission within 300 days from the date the alleged sexual harassment occurred.


If victims fail to file a lawsuit within this period, their cases may be dismissed, and they won't be able to pursue damages.


Expanded Liability for Sexual Harassment Claims

The latest changes to the state's sexual harassment laws make more Texas employers subject to the prohibition of this conduct in workplaces. Previously, businesses with fewer than 15 employees had no recourse for these claims.


After these modifications, any individual or entity with one or more employees may face legal action for workplace sexual harassment.


Additionally, managers or supervisors who know or should have known about these incidents are legally required to take "immediate and appropriate corrective action." Otherwise, they may be found liable for unlawful employment practice.


Can Victims File a Sexual Harassment Claim After the Statute of Limitations Expires?

Although legal action must be initiated within 300 days from the date the alleged harassment occurred, Texas law allows people to file these claims even if the statute of limitation has expired under special circumstances.


Some examples include cases involving victims who were unaware that they experienced discrimination or people who didn't file a claim or complaint due to fear of retaliation.


What Is the Statute of Limitations for Sexual Harassment in Learning Environments?

If sexual harassment doesn't occur in the workplace but in a learning environment, such as a school or university, victims can file a civil lawsuit against the at-fault individual or entity to recover compensation. These cases are handled differently.


Although sexual harassment is often a civil issue, it can become a crime if it's so severe that it violates criminal law.


In both scenarios, the time limit for taking legal action is different. Typically, the civil statute of limitations is between one and five years. However, serious crimes, such as aggravated rape cases, aren't subject to this rule if the offender remains unknown.


Also, if victims are minors when the alleged sexual misconduct occurs, the statute of limitations may be tolled until they turn 18 years old and can take legal action against perpetrators. In these cases, the time limit can be extended to up to 20 years after their birthday. For more information, experienced criminal lawyers may be able to help.


Final Thoughts: What Should a Person Facing Sexual Harassment Charges Do?

Final Thoughts: What Should a Person Facing Sexual Harassment Charges Do?


As explained above, Texas employers are subject to strict laws and potential penalties. However, the definition of "immediate and appropriate corrective action" added to Section 21.141 of the Texas Labor Code is unclear.


When alleged sexual harassment occurs in learning environments, these cases can be even more complicated and turn into civil or criminal issues, greatly affecting defendants' personal and professional lives.


In addition, since the statute of limitations has been extended, civil lawsuits or pending sex crime charges can be filed after 180 days from the date of the offense. This adds an extra layer of complexity to such cases.


However, alleged offenders have the right to seek legal counsel. Therefore, anyone facing sexual harassment allegations should seek help from an experienced attorney.


A defense lawyer can help alleged offenders understand their rights and fight sexual harassment claims. Also, experts can determine whether legal action is brought within the statute of limitations and explore the options defendants can consider to achieve the best possible outcome.


Contact Sparks Law Firm Today!

With over 100 years of combined experience, Sparks Law Firm's team is ready to help alleged sexual harassment offenders fight for their rights. Get in touch today!

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