Another legislative session ended with few changes affecting Texas employers on the labor and employment law front.  One bill that did become law is one that prohibits the sexual harassment of unpaid interns.  The law creates an offense if the employer’s agents or supervisors know or should have knowledge of conduct constituting sexual harassment was occurring with respect to an unpaid intern and fail to take immediate and appropriate corrective action.

Sexual harassment is defined as an unwelcome sexual advance, a request for a sexual favor, or any other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature if submission to the advance, request, or conduct is made a term or condition of an individual’s internship, either explicitly or implicitly; submission to or rejection of the advance, request, or conduct by an individual is used as the basis for a decision affecting the individual’s internship; the advance, request, or conduct has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual’s work performance at the individual’s internship; or the advance, request, or conduct has the purpose or effect of creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive working environment.

Interns attempting to bring a claim under the law will still have to file a complaint with the Texas Workforce Commission Civil Rights Division and otherwise exhaust all administrative remedies.   While not mentioned in the statute, since interns are not paid, remedies are likely limited to compensatory and punitive damages, attorney’s fees, court costs, interest and injunctive relief.

The bill becomes effective September 1, 2015.  You can download the full version of HB1151 here.

H/T to Fort Worth lawyer Jason C.N. Smith for mentioning the new law to me.

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