Wrongful Termination Lawyers in Texas
Wrongful termination lawyers represent clients in Texas in wrongful termination and wrongful discharge claims. Texas law provides very limited reasons why you can challenge a discharge or termination from your job as a wrongful discharge or wrongful termination. Most people are aware that Texas is an “at-will” or “right to work” state in which your employer can terminate your job for almost any reason. Texas and federal law provides a few reasons why you cannot be discharged. If terminated for a reason that violates the law you may have a wrongful discharge or wrongful termination claim. You should talk to Texas employment lawyers right away.
Texas wrongful termination laws
Wrongful termination claims are among the most common employment law claims in Texas; however, there is a common misunderstanding about what wrongful termination is in Texas and federal law. We use the term “wrongful termination” in plain language more broadly than the legal definition. When most people talk about wrongful termination they mean the were fired for a bad reason or without cause. Texas is an at-will employment state which means an employer does not have to have cause or good evidence of misconduct to fire you. In Texas a wrongful termination claim exists when the employer’s reason for firing you is illegal or in breach of an employment contract.
People are surprised to discover Texas law provides so little job protections from baseless firings and bad acts by employers; however, Texas employment law strongly favors employers’ right to run their business as they want subject to very few exceptions. An employer does not need to prove misconduct or a business reason to fire you. Your employer can fire you for no reason at all. Wrongful termination claims are the exception to at-will employment, not the rule.
Most wrongful termination claims in Texas arise because the employer fired the employee in violation of a statute or law. Many employment laws prohibit employers from firing employees because they were part of a group protected by that law or the employee exercised a right protected by that law.
If you believe you were fired for an illegitimate reason, you should talk to a wrongful termination lawyer in your area. Your lawyer can assess your situation and explore whether you have a wrongful termination claim to pursue.
What if there is no law protecting an employee from a wrongful discharge?
Not every wrongful termination claim requires an employer to violate an employment law or labor law statute. You may have worked under an employment contract or a job with a grievance system that gives you opportunities to get your job back or to pursue a claim against the employer. A wrongful termination lawyer in Texas can explore opportunities to pursue reinstatement and claims against your employer.
In Texas, most employees work under at-will employment; however, some work under employment contracts that dictate the terms and conditions of their job. Employment contracts may contain specific provisions about how and why an employee may be fired. If the employer fails to comply with those contract terms, the employee may pursue a wrongful termination claim for breach of contract. Additionally, as a contract under Texas law there are other claims that may be brought like any other contract.
Some employees work in union settings where a collective bargaining agreement (CBA) governs the employment relationship. A CBA almost always include provisions regarding discipline and termination, with grievance procedures to pursue reinstatement or damages for wrongful termination. A union CBA is governed by federal labor law, which sets a slightly higher standard than at-will employment for employers to show just cause when terminating an employee for misconduct. If your employer violated your CBA, you should talk to a labor lawyer near you about your situation. Although the union may represent you in a termination proceeding, you may want an independent lawyer representing your interests.
Wrongful termination grievance proceedings
Like union employees, some employers have an internal grievance processes for at-will employees. If you were terminated for a bad reason, or without evidence, you may be able to pursue a grievance to get your job back and seek lost pay.
Some Texas hospitals, for example, have a voluntary grievance process in which terminated employees can appeal the decision. Although these appeals are often heard by management rather than a judge, the process often relies upon your ability to present evidence and arguments to an appeals board.
Public employers also often have internal grievance or appeals processes. These can include federal and state employees, teachers, police officers and other county and municipal workers. These procedures also often involve agency managers to hear evidence and arguments from both sides. This procedure often requires you to present evidence and arguments and may require several levels of hearings and appeals before the issue is resolved. An experienced employment lawyer can help advocate for you and improve your chances of a good outcome.
In these situations you may not have a wrongful termination claim under a law but your employment lawyer can still pursue remedies for you. If you worked under a contract or for an employer with a grievance or appeal process, you should talk to a wrongful termination lawyer right away about your case.
Wrongful termination claims under federal and Texas law
Wrongful termination claims for illegal acts by your former employer include firing you for exercise of a protected right or because you belong to or associate with a protected class. Although Texas workers do not enjoy many job protections, most employment laws prohibit employers for firing you for exercising your rights under those laws.
Employment discrimination laws prohibit employers from firing you because of your identity in or with a protected class of workers. These laws prohibit employers from firing you because you belong to a protected group, your employer perceives you to be part of a protected group, or you affiliate with people in a protected group. These include:
- National origin
- Sex/gender/sexual orientation
- Age (over forty)
- Genetic information
Additionally, other employment laws protect your right to request and exercise protected rights, such as:
- Requesting or taking FMLA leave;
- Requesting a reasonable accommodation to a disability;
- Serve on a jury;
- Serve in the armed forces;
- Joining a union.
Other protected rights include your right to oppose and report unlawful employment practices, such as:
- Unpaid wages, wages below minimum wage, or refusal to pay overtime pay;
- Unlawful forms of employment discrimination against you or a coworker;
- Fraudulent accounting practices by public companies;
- Unsafe work conditions or violations of environmental regulations.
If your employer fires you in retaliation for exercising a protected right or for engaging in a protected activity of opposing or reporting unlawful activity, then you may have a wrongful termination claim. Laws protecting these rights, including your right to report these unlawful acts, include anti-retaliation provisions protecting you from that form of retaliation.
If you believe you were wrongfully terminated, you should contact a wrongful termination lawyer in Texas right away. Many of these employment laws require you to take action quickly after your discharge and satisfy technical requirements before you can proceed with your case.
Refusal to perform a criminal act in Texas
Texas law prohibits an employer from firing an employee when the employer requests the employee commit an illegal act and the employee refuses. In Texas this wrongful discharge claim is an exception to the “at-will” employment doctrine. It is the public policy exception or Sabine Pilot exception named after the lawsuit establishing the exception.
Under this wrongful termination claim, your employer must require you to commit the illegal act. It is not enough that your employer suggests it or makes a demand but does not fire you for refusing to commit the illegal act. Basically, your employer must make you choose between committing the criminal act or losing your job. Texas also protects your right, when demanded to perform an illegal act, to take steps to determine whether the request actually contains illegal acts. That means you have the right to contact the police or appropriate regulatory agencies to determine whether you are legally permitted to perform the requested act.
Learn more about how wrongful termination lawyers can help you
Learn more about Texas employment laws and wrongful termination claims:
Contact a Texas wrongful termination lawyer
If you believe you suffered a wrongful termination by your employer, you should contact a wrongful termination lawyer in Texas. If you believe your employer is about to fire you, then you should also talk to a wrongful termination lawyer as soon as possible. You can find wrongful termination lawyers in all of the major metro areas including Dallas, Houston, Austin, San Antonio, Fort Worth, El Paso and other parts of the state. You do not have to hire a lawyer near you but it may help to have an attorney familiar with the judges in your area. Do not delay–many wrongful termination claims require you to act quickly and your attorney may need to move quickly to investigate your claim.