Retaliation: The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), in its most recently compiled statistics, says it received more than 70,000 discrimination claims in 2019, of which roughly 10 percent originated in Texas. Retaliation was the largest category of complaints.
Retaliation occurs when an employer punishes an applicant or employee for asserting their protected rights aﬀorded to them under federal, state, or local laws. For example, if you report a safety violation at your company and you are subsequently discharged as a whistleblower (whether they say so or not), that can be cause for a wrongful termination legal action. The same rule applies if you report an act of sexual harassment or other abuse and get terminated as a form of retaliation.
Public Policy: Wrongful termination for violation of public policy occurs when an employer discharges an employee for:
- Refusing to break the law (e.g., by filing a false report)
- Performing a legal obligation (such as voting, serving on a jury)
- Exercising a legal right or privilege (union or political activities)
- Reporting an alleged violation of a public statute (often referred to as “whistleblower retaliation”)
Written or Implied Contracts: If you have a written contract or collective bargaining agreement, these can often trump the at-will-employment doctrine under Texas law. Similarly, other written and even implied promises can also be a factor. Employment manuals generally contain multiple disclaimers to help avoid litigation, but an acceptance-of-employment document, such as a letter, might be more binding. Implied promises, or implied contracts, exist when words and actions between the two parties suggest that a pact or contract has been reached. When these contracts are broken, it can lead to a case of wrongful discharge.
Constructive Discharge: Constructive discharge occurs when an employee quits due to intolerable circumstances, such as a hostile work environment involving harassment, retaliation, or continued discrimination. “I had to quit, it was so bad,” in other words. This can rise to the status of wrongful termination – a forced resignation; however, constructive discharge in Texas is very challenging to prove. An employee alleging constructive discharge must prove that the circumstances were so intolerable that a reasonable person in the employee’s position would have felt compelled to resign.
Can I Sue My Employer?
If you believe that you have been wrongfully terminated then you may ﬁle a claim with the appropriate federal, state, or local agency. In some cases, you are required to take this step before you can ﬁle a civil lawsuit. The agency will then conduct an investigation and provide a remedy where warranted.
If the agency doesn’t provide a remedy or you ﬁnd the remedy insuﬃcient, then you can ﬁle a civil lawsuit against your employer.
At the end of the claim process, if found to be wrongfully terminated, you may receive:
- Back and future pay
- Punitive damages
- A promotion
- Attorneys’ fees
In addition, the company may receive an injunction against future illegal activity regarding employment and termination.