If you feel you have been discriminated on the basis of pay and wish to speak to a Texas equal pay rights attorney at the Martinez & Martinez Law Firm, please submit a case review form or contact us at Martinez@martinezlawyers.com.
CAUTION: The information on this webpage and website does not constitute legal advice. The purpose of this information is to provide GENERAL information to the public and to raise awareness of Texas employment laws for Texas employees. DO NOT read anything here and make a decision affecting your legal rights, such as a decision not to pursue a lawsuit or to file a lawsuit, without first consulting a lawyer. ONLY your own individual attorney can provide you with legal advice and properly inform you of your rights and remedies under the law. This website does not guarantee the accuracy of any of the information provided within it. Finally, this information only applies to Texas employees, as employment laws differ greatly from state to state.
This is not legal advice.
whistleblower, n. An employee who reports employer wrongdoing to a governmental or law-enforcement agency.–Black’s Law Dictionary, Eighth Edition.
whistleblower, n. One who reveals wrongdoing within an organization to the public or to those in positions of authority . . . .–American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition.
As the above definitions suggest, “whistleblowers” are employees who report wrongdoing in the workplace to a superior, a law enforcement agency, a governmental agency, or the public. Whistleblowers often take such actions at the risk of losing their jobs and careers. Unfortunately, despite the enormous benefit the public receives from whistleblower actions, in Texas, not all “whistleblower” activity is protected by the law. In some circumstances, a whistleblower may even be legally fired for reporting a violation of the law by his or her employer and may be left without remedy or recourse. In fact, in Texas, despite being home to Enron, a business scandal that rocked the country and financially ruined thousands of Americans, the Texas Legislature has reduced some whistleblower protections over the past decades in the name of tort reform (perhaps one reason why we were home to Enron?). Unlike other states where whistleblower laws provide much greater protection for employees, in Texas there is a lot of “whistleblowing” that leaves a Texas employee unprotected.
The protections that do exist for Texas employees are a web of various state and federal laws protecting certain employees for reporting certain illegal actions. While some of these protections will be listed below, if you believe that you have been retaliated against for some sort of “whistleblowing” activity, you should contact a whistleblower attorney to find out if your legal rights have been violated.
The Texas Whistleblower Act
The Texas Whistleblower Act provides legal rights for public (and not private) employees who report certain violations of laws by the employing governmental entity or another public employee to an appropriate law enforcement authority. The Texas Whistleblower Act may be found in Section 554.001 of the Texas Government Code. In a lawsuit under the Whistleblower Act, an employee may seek to recover injunctive relief (including reinstatement), actual damages, back pay, front pay, court costs, and attorney’s fees. Since 1995, punitive damages are not available under the Act and other damages have been capped by the Texas Legislature.
An employee seeking to advance his or her rights under the Texas Whistleblower Act must move very quickly. If a public employer has a grievance or appeal procedure, an employee suing that employer must first exhaust that administrative remedy before filing suit and must do so quickly. Because the requirements for filing suit and exhausting administrative remedies under the Act are complex and time sensitive, if you feel you may have rights under the Texas Whistleblower Act, you should contact an attorney immediately.
Other Whistleblower Laws in Texas
As stated above, there are several whistleblower laws in Texas that protect whistleblowers from retaliation from their employers under certain circumstances. Because these laws are limited and only apply to very specific circumstances, you should contact a whistleblower lawyer if you have been retaliated against for “whistleblowing” or you would like to be advised of your rights before “whistleblowing.” Please be aware that, in Texas, a large amount of “whistleblowing” is not protected by the law. Texas law does provided limited protections for employees in various circumstances, including:
Federal Whistleblower Laws
In addition to protections offered by state law for whistleblowers, federal law provides some protections for whistleblowers in Texas. For example, the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, passed in the wake of Enron, provides limited remedies for whistleblowers who complain of certain accounting irregularities or violations of securities laws at publicly traded companies. Other federal laws provided limited protections for certain employees who complain about:
What to Do if Your Employer Retaliates Against You for Whistleblowing
Contact an attorney immediately, and preferably an attorney who routinely represents employees in employment litigation. To preserve your rights under the law for this type of retaliation, you should act quickly, as claims for whistleblowing retaliation are subject to statutes of limitations that vary widely and can often be very short in time (weeks or months). Lastly, take thorough notes regarding everything discriminatory that is said or done to you and keep all of your records related to your employment. These notes and records may prove invaluable in a later lawsuit.