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Can Prior Employers Disclose Sex Abuse Allegations in Texas?

Published: Apr 02, 2019 in Criminal Defense, Sex Crimes

If you were accused of sexual misconduct at your former workplace, your former employer is not prohibited from sharing this information when people call them for references about you. It’s important to note, however, that your former employer will likely not disclose sex abuse allegations against you. This is because they fear they will be sued for defamation if they share negative information about former employees. This is good news if you have been targeted with false accusations of sexual misconduct at a place of employment.

On the other hand, this policy enables people who have collected serious sex abuse allegations to move from job to job with virtual impunity. This is especially common when it comes to churches. A recent investigation of the Southern Baptist Convention has shown that volunteers and employees have been known to periodically move from church to church to gain access to new victims. For this reason, the State of Texas is now considering legislation to shield churches from defamation suits when they disclose allegations against former employees or volunteers.

If you have been accused of a sexual offense and are concerned with how it might affect your employment, contact a Houston sexual assault lawyer from The Law Offices of Ned Barnett for help. To schedule a free consultation of your case, contact us today at (713) 222-6767.

Texas Employers are Reluctant to Share Personal Details of Former Employees

Even in situations where the allegations against an individual are credible, an employer may be reluctant to share this information with people seeking references. The reason is that employers fear defamation lawsuits, which are possible in situations where a person (or a company) makes false and damaging statements against another party.

Texas law, however, protects employers from defamation lawsuits unless any of the following apply:

  • The employer knowingly made a false statement about the employee
  • The employer shared information with reckless disregard about its truth or falsity
  • The employer maliciously shared information that would hurt the employee

The problem for employers is that even if they are in the right, defending themselves against a defamation suit is a costly affair that distracts from normal business activities. From their perspective, it’s best to eliminate the risk by sharing only the most basic information they have on file for their employees, such as their job title and length of employment. The vast majority of employers will not share specific character information, including any allegations of sexual misconduct.

The Texas Legislature is Encouraging Churches to Share Allegations Against Former Employees

A joint investigation by the Houston Chronicle and San Antonio Express-News discovered that hundreds of elders and volunteers of the Southern Baptist church had been charged with sex crimes over the last 20 years. Shockingly, dozens of people who were accused of sex abuse were able to leave one church and apply for a position with another. According to Gary Ledbetter, a spokesman for the Southern Baptist of Texas Convention, churches “say nothing except that the person did work here” when answering questions about former employees.

To remedy the problem, the Texas Legislature is now considering a bill that will provide broad protections to churches who disclose allegations against their employees – even those that do not result in formal charges or convictions. Introduced in March 2019 by State Representative Scott Sanford, House Bill 4345 protects churches and their employees from lawsuits as long as they share in good faith information about sex abuse allegations. A person who shares false information with malicious intent is not shielded from criminal or civil liability.

House Bill 4345 reduces the likelihood of churches getting sued for sharing information about sex abuse allegations with reckless disregard about their truth or falsehood. As long as the church can show that it had a reasonable basis for believing the allegations were true, it is protected. Businesses do not benefit from the same level of protection. Whether this additional guarantee will be sufficient to help churches overcome the fear of legal action remains to be seen.

Call a Houston Sexual Assault Lawyer for Help

At The Law Offices of Ned Barnett, we have a long history of successfully defending clients against sex crime charges. These cases are emotionally-charged and vigorously litigated at every stage of the criminal justice process. For these reasons, sex crime cases require prompt and decisive legal action from a compassionate and experienced defense team. If you have been charged with a sex crime, contact us today at (713) 222-6767 to schedule a free and confidential consultation of your case.