On March 27, the Supreme Court of Texas ruled in favor of a plaintiff-employee who alleged that she was sexually assaulted at work by her manager. This ruling was in response to an attempt by the employer to have the lawsuit dismissed.
The employer had argued that judgment should be granted in its favor because the plaintiff had produced no evidence supporting her claims and the alleged injuries were not covered by the Texas Workers’ Compensation Act. The appellate court dismissed the lawsuit on the first basis, but it did not consider the plaintiff’s response to defendant’s motion because it was not timely filed. In sum, the Supreme Court found that, since the trial court had considered the employee’s late-filed response to the employer’s motion, the court of appeals should also have considered evidence presented by the employee before making a ruling, and the Supreme Court directed the court of appeals to do so.
In an earlier attempt by the employer to have the lawsuit thrown out in 2017, the Supreme Court held that sexual assault claims are not subject to the same administrative requirements as other unlawful employment practices based on sex, such as sexual harassment, which have to be filed with the Texas Workforce Commission within 180 days of the alleged unlawful employment practice. Though the employee’s latest victory does not guarantee that she will be able to proceed with her lawsuit, the Supreme Court’s ruling gives the plaintiff a chance to prove her claims that her former employer’s actions were unlawful.
Texas has strict procedural and schedule requirements that apply to employment cases. If an employee thinks that he or she has been sexually harassed or discriminated against based on gender, it may be wise to consult with an attorney at the earliest opportunity. This could help ensure that the time to file a claim does not lapse.