Texas Whistleblower Laws

Whistleblower laws as they apply to the state of Texas

A Summary of Texas Whistleblower Laws

Texas is an employment-at-will state. This means employees can be discharged from work for any reason or no reason. However, there are a few exceptions to this doctrine that are used to protect employees from wrongful retaliation. These exceptions include common law protections and statutory protections. Statutory protections are laws that are enacted by the state’s legislature to address specific subject areas, e.g., workers’ compensation, whereas common law protections are laws that are created by courts to address subject areas that are not covered by enacted laws.

This is a summary of Texas Whistleblower Laws, make sure to check out the Federal Whistleblower Laws as well.

Whistleblower Rights in Texas

Common Law Protections for Whistleblowers in Texas

Texas has a public policy that is applied as an exception to the employment-at-will doctrine. Therefore, it is illegal for employers to discharge an employee for reasons that violate public policy. However, the public policy exception in Texas is very narrow. The policy only protects employees who are discharged for refusing to carry out an illegal activity that carries criminal penalties. This means employees cannot be protected if they refuse to perform illegal acts that do not carry criminal penalties.  Also, an employee may be protected if he or she was discharged in retaliation for trying to find out whether a directive by the employer to carry out an activity is criminal.

Statutory Protections for Whistleblowers in Texas

Child Abuse

Employers are not allowed to suspend, terminate or in any way discriminate against an employee in retaliation for reporting in good faith child abuse or neglect of a child to a supervisor, law enforcement agency, or any other appropriate authority. Tex. Fam. Code § 261.110.

Discrimination

No employer, labor union, or employment agency is allowed to discriminate against an individual in retaliation for:

  • Opposing discriminatory practices.
  • Making or filing a charge under this statute.
  • Filing a complaint under this statute.
  • Testifying or participating in an investigation, proceeding, or hearing.

Under this statute, discrimination in employment on the basis of race, color, disability, religion, sex, national origin, or age is prohibited. Tex. Lab. Code Ann. § 21.055.

Hazardous Substances

Employers are not allowed to discharge, discipline, or in any way discriminate against an employee in retaliation for:

  • Filing a complaint under this statute.
  • Assisting the inspector during an inspection.
  • Instituting or causing the institution of a proceeding under this statute.
  • Testifying or intending to testify in a proceeding under this statute.
  • Exercising a right afforded by this statute on behalf of himself, herself, or others.

Under this statute, employers are required to provide a workplace chemical list and MSDSs for hazardous chemicals to employees who may be exposed to hazardous chemicals. Tex. Health & Safety Code Ann. § 502.017(c).

Assisted Living Facilities

No person licensed under Texas’s Assisted Living Facilities laws is allowed to retaliate against an individual for filing a complaint, presenting a grievance, or providing in good faith information concerning the services provided by the licensed person. Tex. Health & Safety Code Ann. § 247.068(a).

Hospice & Home Care

No person with a Home and Community Support Services license is allowed to retaliate against an individual for filing a complaint, presenting a grievance, or providing in good faith information concerning home health, hospice, habilitation, or personal assistance services provided by the license holder. Tex. Health & Safety Code Ann. § 142.0093(a). Also, providers of home and community-based services are not allowed to retaliate against an individual for filing a report or providing information concerning the suspected abuse, neglect, or exploitation of an individual receiving services. Tex. Hum. Res. Code § 48.257.

Hospitals

No hospital, mental health facility, or treatment facility is allowed to suspend, discipline, terminate, or in any way discriminate against an employee in retaliation for reporting a violation of a law to a supervisor, administrator of the facility, regulatory agency, or a law enforcement agency. Tex. Health & Safety Code Ann. § 161.134(a).

Intermediate Care Facilities for Individuals with Intellectual Disabilities

No facility is allowed to suspend, discipline, terminate, or in any way discriminate against an employee in retaliation for reporting a violation of a law or initiating or cooperating in an investigation or proceeding concerning the care, services, or conditions at the facility. Reports under this statute can be made to a supervisor, administrator of the facility, or a state regulatory agency. Tex. Health & Safety Code Ann. § 252.132.

Medicaid

No employer is allowed to demote, suspend, harass, or in any way discriminate against an employee in retaliation for taking an action to assist in the prosecution of a case involving false Medicaid claim or fraud involving Medicaid. Tex. Hum. Res. Code § 36.115

General Public Evacuation

Employers are not allowed to discharge or in any way discriminate against an employee in retaliation for leaving his or her workplace to participate in a general public evacuation ordered under an emergency evacuation order. Tex. Lab. Code Ann. § 22.002.

Occupational Health and Safety

Employers are not allowed to suspend, terminate, or in any way discriminate against an employee in retaliation for using the telephone service to report a suspected violation of an occupational health or safety law. Tex. Lab. Code Ann. § 411.082.

Public Employees

States or local governmental entities are not allowed to suspend, terminate or take any adverse action against a public employee in retaliation for reporting a violation of a law by the employing governmental entity or another employee to the relevant law enforcement authority. Tex. Gov’t Code Ann. § 554.002.

Workers’ Compensation

No person is allowed to discharge or in any way discriminate against an employee in retaliation for:

  • Filing a workers’ compensation claim.
  • Hiring a lawyer to represent him or her in a claim.
  • Testifying or intending to testify in a proceeding under this statute.
  • Instituting or causing the institution of a proceeding under this statute.

Tex. Lab. Code Ann. § 451.001.

Whistleblower Retaliation Claims in Texas

Unless stated otherwise by a statute, retaliation claims should be filed in the appropriate court within 2 years of the retaliatory action.

Discrimination

Complaints under this statute should be filed with the Texas Workforce Commission, Civil Rights Division within 180 days of the retaliatory action.

Occupational Health and Safety

Lawsuits under this statute should be filed within 90 days of the retaliatory action.

Workers’ Compensation

Lawsuits under this statute should be filed within 2 years of the retaliatory action.

Hospitals

Lawsuits under this statute should be filed within 180 days of the retaliatory action.

Intermediate Care Facilities for the Mentally Retarded

Lawsuits under this statute should be filed within 90 days of the retaliatory action or within 90 days of notifying the Texas Workforce Commission of the retaliation.

Whistleblower Hotlines in Texas

To file a complaint with the Texas Workforce Commission, call 800-628-5115.

Whistleblower Retaliation and Violation Penalties in Texas

Unless stated otherwise by a statute, employers who carry out unlawful retaliation against an individual may be liable to the aggrieved individual for:

  • Reinstatement to the previous job position.
  • Lost wages.
  • Reinstatement of lost fringe benefits or seniority rights.
  • Reasonable attorney’s fees.
  • Actual damages.
  • Plus any other appropriate relief.

Child Abuse

Employers who violate this statute may be liable to the aggrieved employee for:

  • Actual damages.
  • Exemplary damages.
  • Litigation costs, including reasonable attorney’s fees.
  • Reinstatement of fringe benefits and seniority rights.
  • Lost wages.
  • Reinstatement to the previous job position.

Discrimination

Employers who violate this statute may be liable to the aggrieved employee for:

  • Injunctive relief.
  • Hiring, promotion, or reinstatement with or without back pay.
  • Admission or restoration to union membership or any other appropriate program.
  • Court costs.

In the case of willful violations, the court may award compensatory damages and punitive damages.

General Public Evacuation

Employers who violate this statute may be liable to the aggrieved employee for:

  • Lost wages and benefits.
  • Reinstatement to previous or equivalent job position with commensurate pay.

Hospitals

Employers who violate this statute may be liable to the aggrieved employee for:

  • Actual damages, including damages for mental anguish.
  • Exemplary damages and reasonable attorney fees.
  • Reinstatement to the previous job position.
  • Lost wages.
  • Reinstatement of lost fringe benefits or seniority rights.

Intermediate Care Facilities for the Mentally Retarded

Employers who violate this statute may be liable to the aggrieved employee for:

  • Actual damages, including damages for mental anguish or $1000, whichever is greater.
  • Exemplary damages and reasonable attorney fees.
  • Reinstatement to the previous job position.
  • Lost wages.
  • Reinstatement of lost fringe benefits or seniority rights.
  • Reasonable attorney’s fees.

Medicaid

Employers who violate this statute may be liable to the aggrieved employee for:

  • Reinstatement to the previous job position.
  • Two times the amount of back pay.
  • Interest on back pay.
  • Compensation for special damages.
  • Litigation costs, including reasonable attorney’s fees.

Occupational Health and Safety

Employers who violate this statute may be liable to the aggrieved employee for:

  • Reinstatement to the previous job position.
  • Lost wages.
  • Reinstatement of lost fringe benefits or seniority rights.

Public Employees

Employers who violate this statute may be liable to the aggrieved employee for:

  • Injunctive relief.
  • Actual damages.
  • Court costs.
  • Reasonable attorney fees.
  • Reinstatement to the employee’s former position or an equivalent position.
  • Compensation for wages lost during the period of suspension or termination.
  • Reinstatement of fringe benefits and seniority rights.

Compensatory damages awarded under this statute may not exceed:

  • $50,000, if the employer has fewer than 101 employees in each of 20 or more calendar weeks in the calendar year in which the suit is filed or in the preceding year.
  • $100,000, if the employer has more than 100 and fewer than 201 employees in each of 20 or more calendar weeks in the calendar year in which the suit is filed or in the preceding year.
  • $200,000, if the employer has more than 200 and fewer than 501 employees in each of 20 or more calendar weeks in the calendar year in which the suit is filed or in the preceding year.
  • $250,000, if the employer has more than 500 employees in each of 20 or more calendar weeks in the calendar year in which the suit is filed or in the preceding year.

Local Government Code

Employers who violate this statute may be liable to the aggrieved employee for:

  • Reinstatement to the previous job position.
  • Payment of back pay.
  • Reasonable attorney’s fees.
  • Plus any other appropriate relief.

More Texas Laws

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