If you are a public employee in Texas and you discover that your employer has violated state, local, or federal law, you may be wondering what your options are.
Of course, you don’t want to jeopardize your employment, but you also understand right from wrong. The good news is that you have options for protection under the Texas Whistleblower Act.
What Is the Whistleblower Act in Texas?
According to Texas Government Code, Chapter 5, Section 554.002, “The Texas Whistleblower Act protects public employees who make good faith reports of violations of law by their employer to an appropriate law enforcement authority.”
Whistleblowers play an important role in keeping an eye out for corporate and government wrongdoing. An employee who discovers that their employer is engaging in unlawful conduct must choose between risk of the behavior continuing, and potentially being found partially responsible, or facing potential retaliation from the employer. Texas whistleblower protections serve to prevent retaliation and make this ethical choice much easier.
Who Is Protected by the Texas Whistleblower Act?
The law applies to people employed by local or state government entities. This includes employees of state education institutions, commissions, boards, law enforcement, bus drivers, and others. It does not apply to employees in the private sector except for some circumstances in the medical field.
How to Establish a Claim for Retaliation Under the Texas Whistleblower Protection Act
There are a number of factors that must apply for a whistleblower to bring a successful claim for retaliation. These include:
- The Texas whistleblower was a public employee;
- They acted in good faith when making the report;
- The reported behavior of the agency or public employee was unlawful;
- The report was made to an appropriate law enforcement authority; and
- The employer took adverse action against the employee in response to the report.
Details can be important when determining how to proceed in blowing the whistle on your employer.
Violation of the Law
You do not have to know the exact law that was violated. Most people have a moral compass that helps to determine whether an action was right or wrong, and you must believe that the action was wrong and egregious enough to justify an official report rather than conversation with the employer.
One stipulation of blowing the whistle in Texas is that the report must be made to an appropriate law enforcement authority. There have been circumstances where reporting to the wrong authority has impacted the case. Depending on your circumstances, you may consider discussing the action with an attorney to determine the correct authorities to approach.
Retaliation can come in many forms. It’s common for whistleblowers to be fired by their employers, but this is not the only method of retaliation. Employers may try to disguise the retaliation using other justifications.
If your employer treats you unfairly after you have reported their illegal behavior, this may be considered retaliation. The type of retaliation will determine what kind of legal action you take. In some circumstances you may make a report of the retaliation to another organization for review, such as the company human resources department or the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. An experienced whistleblower attorney can help you decide your next steps.
Compensation for Texas Whistleblower Retaliation
The amount of compensation you receive in a claim against your employer for retaliation depends on the strength of your claim and extent of damages attributable to the retaliation. In a successful case for wrongful termination, an employee may entitled to:
- Lost wages and benefits as a result of the termination,
- Reinstatement of employment,
- Wages lost while searching for new employment,
- Out-of-pocket expenses as result of searching for a new job, and
- Attorney fees.
In cases involving harassment or discrimination, you may also be entitled to compensation for “pain and suffering.” Depending on the extent of your employer’s conduct, a court could also choose to award punitive damages to punish the behavior and set an example for similarly situated employers.
Why You Need an Attorney
It is extremely difficult to pursue a whistleblower claim without legal representation. An employer will virtually never openly admit that they have retaliated against a whistleblower employee. You will need to have proof of the wrongdoing as to the legal violation of the employer and the retaliation conduct. Whistleblowing is a sensitive process, and you should not undertake it alone.
The experienced team at Hunnicutt Law Group can answer all your questions about the Texas Whistleblower Act and help move your case forward. We understand the complicated nature of these types of cases. Our team can assist you by reviewing the facts, explaining your options, and estimating how much your claim may be worth. Contact us to schedule your case consultation.