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Sexual Harassment

Policy statement

The Texas House of Representatives is committed to creating and maintaining a work


environment free from sexual harassment, and where all are treated with respect. To foster
this environment, the Committee on House Administration has established the following policy,
applicable to all members, employees, and interns of the Texas House of Representatives.

Sexual harassment is unacceptable and will not be tolerated. Members, employees, and interns
are expected to abstain from and discourage sexual harassment. In addition to violating the
policy of the Texas House of Representatives, any such conduct may also be a violation of Title
VII of the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended, of Chapter 21 of the Texas Labor Code,
which prohibits employment discrimination, or of Chapter 39 of the Texas Penal Code. Some
sexual harassment may also constitute assault or sexual assault, and sexual harassment itself
may also constitute the criminal offense of official oppression under Section 39.03 of the Penal
Code. In any form, sexual harassment is a very serious matter that may result in adverse action
against the harasser (up to and including termination), investigation by civil and criminal
authorities, and other appropriate sanctions.

All forms of harassment based on race, color, sex, religion, national origin, protected activity,
age, disability, or genetic information are prohibited by law and are against the policy of the
Texas House of Representatives. While this policy specifically focuses on sexual harassment, any
other harassment described above is also prohibited, and should be reported to the Manager of
the House Payroll/Personnel Department or the Chairman of House Administration so that
appropriate action may be taken to address it.

What is sexual harassment?

It is unlawful to harass a person because of that person's sex. Both victim and harasser can be
either a man or a woman, and the victim and harasser can be of the same sex.

The legal definition of sexual harassment is an unwelcome sexual advance, a request for a
sexual favor, or any other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature when, for example:
(1) submission to the advance, request, or conduct is made a term or condition of an
individual's position, either explicitly or implicitly;
(2) 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 position;
(3) the advance, request, or conduct has the purpose or effect of unreasonably
interfering with an individual's work performance at the individual's position; or
(4) the advance, request, or conduct has the purpose or effect of creating an
intimidating, hostile, or offensive working environment.

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Certain behaviors, such as conditioning promotions, awards, or other job benefits on
acceptance of unwelcome actions of a sexual nature, are always illegal and violate this policy.

Unwelcome actions such as the following are inappropriate and, depending on the
circumstances, may meet the definition of sexual harassment:

Sexual pranks, or repeated teasing, jokes, or innuendo;


Verbal abuse of a sexual nature;
Touching or grabbing of a sexual nature;
Repeatedly standing too close to or intentionally brushing up against a person;
Repeatedly asking a person to socialize during off-duty hours when the person has said
no or has indicated that he or she is not interested;
Giving sexually suggestive gifts or displaying in the workplace sexually suggestive
objects;
Repeatedly making sexually suggestive gestures;
Making or posting sexually demeaning or offensive pictures, cartoons, or other material
in the workplace; or
Off-duty, unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature that affects the work environment.

Sexual harassment may occur in a variety of employment situations. The harasser may be the
victim's supervisor, a co-worker, or someone who is not an employee of the victim's employer.

Training requirement

As a preventive and educational measure, all members, employees, and interns of the Texas
House of Representatives are required to complete a sexual harassment training program. This
training may be combined with training on other employment-related topics such as
employment discrimination and workplace violence. Training must be completed by the 30th
day of office, employment, or internship, as appropriate, and every two years thereafter. For
current members, employees, and interns, training is required to be completed on or before
January 31, 2018. The Manager of the House Payroll and Personnel Department shall keep
accurate records of those members and staff who have completed the training, and these
records will be available to the public.

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How to get help

If you have been subject to or witnessed sexual harassment, you may explain to the offender
that his or her offensive behavior disturbs you and ask him or her to stop. While this interaction
may be awkward, communicating with the offender may help stop the offensive
behavior. However, you are not required to confront the offender, and should not if you do not
feel safe doing so. If you do not want to confront the offender directly, or if you have talked
with the offender and the behavior has not stopped, or if you believe your complaint has
resulted in retaliation, you may pursue a sexual harassment complaint as described below.

Internal complaint process

If the person whose conduct is alleged to have violated this policy is an employee or intern, a
complaint may be pursued through the Manager of the House Payroll/Personnel Department. If
the Manager of the House Payroll/Personnel Department is the alleged harasser or is perceived
to have a bias in the matter, the complaint may be pursued through the Chairman of the
Committee on House Administration.

If the person whose conduct is alleged to have violated this policy is a member of the House, a
complaint may be pursued through the Chairman of the Committee on House Administration. If
the Chairman of the Committee on House Administration is the alleged harasser or is perceived
to have a bias in the matter, the complaint may be pursued through the Vice-Chairman of the
Committee on House Administration.

All complaints of sexual harassment will be promptly and thoroughly investigated by impartial
individuals. The accused harasser may not direct, control, or otherwise interfere with the
investigation. If necessary, external resources, such as an outside attorney or investigator, may
be utilized to ensure an impartial and thorough investigation. Investigations will involve, as
appropriate, an initial evaluation of the complaint, interviews with those with knowledge of the
facts, gathering any other evidence, and any other activities necessary to assess the complaint.

While an investigation is ongoing, steps may be taken to ensure that the alleged harassment
does not continue. For example, if the organizational structure of the House puts the individual
bringing the complaint in regular contact with the alleged harasser, temporary changes in
assignments may be made or emergency leave may be granted. The complaint and resolution
will be treated as discreetly as possible. The identities of the victims and witnesses of the
alleged sexual harassment, and their detailed statements, will be protected from disclosure to
the greatest extent allowed by law. All individuals subject to this policy who learn of the
identity of a victim or witness or of the details of a complaint in the course of an investigation
are expected to maintain the confidentiality of this information, and the release of such
information may violate the law and constitute a separate violation of this policy.

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If a determination is made that sexual harassment has occurred, appropriate action will be
taken to resolve the problem, and, to the extent possible, to correct any effects of the
harassment. Remedial actions will be proportional to the seriousness of the offense and may
include a written reprimand, demotion or transfer, suspension without pay, termination, or any
other appropriate sanction.

Finally, while you are not required to utilize the internal complaint process, doing so may allow
problems to be addressed more quickly and before they become more serious.

External complaint options

You are not required to file a complaint using the House's internal processes. You also have the
right to file a complaint with the Civil Rights Division of the Texas Workforce Commission (512-
463-2642 or 888-452-4778) or the Federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)
(800-669-4000). Please note that in order to pursue certain legal action against offending
parties there is a requirement for filing a complaint with either the Civil Rights Division or the
EEOC. There are strict timelines for filing these complaints, and utilizing the internal complaint
process does not stop those deadlines from running.

It is also important to note that the federal laws enforced by the EEOC may not apply to unpaid
interns. However, unpaid interns are covered by state anti-harassment laws and by this
policy. In addition, unpaid interns who are also students may be protected by federal law
under Title IX of the Educational Amendments of 1972. Such interns should contact their
internship programs for more information.

Sexual harassment that may constitute assault or sexual assault should also be reported to law
enforcement.

Counseling and confidential assistance

Outside of the complaint processes above, other assistance is also available. An employee
assistance program is available to employees of the Texas House of Representatives (beginning
January 1, 2018). This program, administered by Alliance Work Partners (800-343-3822),
provides, among other benefits, counseling for victims of sexual harassment. This assistance
program is also a resource for employees who believe they may be a victim of or witnesses to
sexual harassment, but who would rather discuss their concerns with a third party without
directly raising the issue with members or staff of the House.

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Retaliation

The Texas House of Representatives will not tolerate retaliation against an individual who
reports sexual harassment. Retaliation includes any adverse action affecting an individuals
position or future position for opposing a discriminatory practice, making or filing a charge,
filing a complaint, or testifying, assisting, or otherwise participating in any way in the process of
investigating or adjudicating an incident. Any actual or threatened retaliation, or any act of
intimidation to prevent or otherwise obstruct the reporting, investigating, or adjudicating of a
complaint may be considered a separate violation of this policy. Such actions also may violate
federal or state law, including Chapter 21 of the Texas Labor Code. An individual who reports
sexual harassment in good faith continues to be protected from retaliation even if the
investigation reveals that no sexual harassment occurred. In addition, depending on the facts,
whistleblower protections under Chapter 554 of the Texas Government Code may be available
to an employee who is a victim of sexual harassment and who in good faith reports a violation
of law to an appropriate law enforcement authority.

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