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Texas Whistleblower Act Has Jurisdiction

A state employee sent an email to a superior declaring that if a particular contract were not honored, then the entire department would not be complying with federal regulation. After being fired, the employee sued under the Texas Whistleblower Act (TWA) and attached a copy of the email.  The Texas Supreme Court dismissed the complaint because the plaintiff’s pleadings affirmatively negated the trial court’s jurisdiction.

To understand the Texas Supreme Court’s decision, the TWA’s jurisdiction needs to be examined.

Texas Whistleblower Act’s Jurisdiction

The TWA protects public employees from retaliatory acts by their employers when the employees in good faith report a violation of law by the employer to a proper law enforcement agency.

The following are two components to a court’s jurisdiction under the TWA:

  1. The person invoking the TWA must be a public employee
  2. The complainant must allege facts to support elements of the case at the pleading stage

If the complainant does not cite facts to support elements of the case at the pleading stage, then the government employer may raise the defense of government immunity.  The TWA says that a public employee who alleges a violation of this law may sue and the state agency’s sovereign immunity is waived to the extent of liability for a violation of this law.

Steps to show elements of the case to prove jurisdiction

To proceed with a TWA suit, the complainant must establish that the trial court has subject matter jurisdiction.  To do this, the plaintiff needs to demonstrate that he did the following:

  1. Made a good faith report of the violation of law; and
  2. Reported the violation of law to a proper law enforcement authority

Under the TWA, a violation of the law may be a violation of any of the following:

  1. A state or federal statute
  2. A local governmental ordinance
  3. A rule enacted under a statute or ordinance

Under the TWA, a proper law enforcement authority is a governmental entity that the plaintiff believes possesses the authority to do the following:

  1. Investigate or prosecute violations of law against parties outside of its agency, or
  2. Enact regulations governing the conduct of third parties

When a professor of surgery at The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center reported violations of Medicaid and Medicare violations to a supervisory faculty member, the Texas Supreme Court concluded that plaintiff did not report to an appropriate law enforcement authority, and was not shielded under TWA.

Filing a lawsuit under the TWA is too important to have the court dismiss your suit for failing to meet a procedural requirement.  If a state agency retaliated against you for exercising your legal rights under the TWA, consult with a Texas whistleblower attorney before proceeding any further.

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