Wrongful Termination in Texas
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What Are the Wrongful Termination Laws in Texas?
In Texas, as a general rule, employment is "at-will." This means that an employer can terminate an employee for any reason, no matter how arbitrary or irrational, or no reason at all. The termination can occur at any given time and for any legitimate purpose; therefore, proving wrongful termination can be difficult in such an arrangement. Employers cannot discriminate based on race, color, national origin, sex, pregnancy, religion, disability, age, marital status, AIDS/HIV, or sickle cell trait
Under federal law, employers cannot fire an employee based on a protected characteristic such as race, color, national origin, sex, pregnancy, religion, age, disability, and citizenship status.
What If My Employer Breached the Employment Contract?
If you have a written employment contract promising you a job or job security, you are not an at-will employee. Under Texas law, implied employment contracts based on clear statements made in an employee handbook by the employer that they have a secured job and cannot be fired for any reason. For example, if your employee handbook states that employees will be fired only for good cause, you may have an implied contract. If you have an employment contract, and your employer fires you without good cause, you have a legal claim for breach of contract.
If the employer breaches this contract and fires you for no reason at all, then you may have a legal claim against your employer for breach of contract.
What Is the Illegal Act Exception?
As in most other states, employers in Texas can't always terminate employees for any reason – there are exceptions to the at-will termination rule.
In Texas, a public employee can sue for wrongful termination only when he or she is fired for refusing to perform an illegal act. "Illegal act" means any action that would create criminal liability under the laws of Texas or the United States. A refusal to violate a statute that would only create civil liability is not covered. Texas does not recognize a cause of action for wrongful termination when a private employee reports illegal activity on the part of the employer, and is fired for that reason. However, such protections do exist in Texas for public (i.e. government) employees.
What Is the Workers’ Compensation Exception?
In Texas, an employee may not be fired for making a claim for workers’ compensation. You have to show, however, that your claim for workers’ compensation was a necessary precursor to your termination. That is, you have to show that if you had not made the claim, you would not have been terminated.
Do I Have a Wrongful Termination Claim in Texas?
Wrongful termination claims in Texas depend on whether all of the facts that led to the termination would create a wrongful termination. If the employer’s motivation in firing the employee was unlawful, then the employee may bring a wrongful termination claim even if the employee is an at-will employee. It can be difficult to see what actions and motivations can give rise to a workers compensation claim. It is often worth consulting with a Texas employment attorney to determine whether you might have a claim.
How Can I File a Wrongful Termination Claim in Texas?
In Texas, before filing a discrimination claim, you must file a complaint with the appropriate government agency within the State of Texas. The Texas Workforce Commission has the right to enforce the state’s laws prohibiting discrimination. In many cases, the state’s fair employment practices agencies will record the complaint that you filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).
Should I Consult an Attorney?
Wrongful termination is a confusing area of law and navigating the legal system may be difficult. An employment lawyer can help you determine whether there is a legal basis for a claim, and if so, she can help you recover monetary damages.
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Last Modified: 08-23-2016 10:05 PM PDT
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