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Demystifying the Texas Whistleblower Act

I love those who can smile in trouble, who can gather strength from distress, and grow brave by reflection. ‘Tis the business of little minds to shrink, but they whose heart is firm, and whose conscience approves their conduct, will pursue their principles unto death. — Leonard Da Vinci

When first reporting the illegal or unethical activity witnessed on the job, an employee may be called a snitch or disloyal. The reporting employee’s employment and livelihood could be at risk if the employer attempts to retaliate because of the whistleblower’s risky revelation.

What is the Texas Whistleblower Act?

The Texas Whistleblower Act proscribes a state or city government from acting adversely in employment against a public employee who in good faith informed an appropriate law enforcement authority of a violation of law by the employing governmental entity or another public employee. The law further provides injunctive and compensatory relief for the whistleblower who was retaliated against.

A closer examination of the key elements

The Texas Whistleblower Act contains several key elements that need to be clearly defined in order to understand the law’s applicability.

  • Public employee — The whistleblower must be working for the state or local government
  • In good faith informed — The public employee must subjectively believe that the law was violated and this belief must also be objectively reasonable
  • Informed an appropriate law enforcement authority — A  public employee who informs the director of the governmental agency in which he works of illegal activity failed to inform an appropriate law enforcement authority; the Texas Supreme Court declared that an appropriate law enforcement authority must have the enforcement and investigative powers to prosecute violations of law against parties outside of the entity itself
  • Adverse personnel action — The whistleblower’s employer must have taken negative employment actions against him including, for example, demotion, decrease in salary, transfer, suspension and termination, formal reprimands or severe harassment

When to file and what to gain?

A suit pursuant to the Texas Whistleblower Act must be filed within 90 days of the date of the last act of adverse employment action.  A public employee claiming retaliation may sue for the following:

  • Actual damages such as lost wages
  • Injunctive relief such as reinstatement to position with its seniority rights
  • Court costs
  • Reasonable lawyer fees

If you suspect that you have been retaliated against in your employment because you blew the whistle on another employee or the employer, it is important to consult with a Texas whistleblower attorney to discuss the merits of your claim and possible relief.

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