Some of the Limits on At-Will Termination of Employment in the Lone Star State
Like many other states, Texas follows the “at-will” approach in employment law, which means an employer can terminate a worker at any time for any reason, provided the discharge does not violate the terms of an employment agreement and is not contrary to any law or public policy. If an employer gives no written or verbal reason for a discharge (and the law does not require them to), you’ll likely find it difficult or impossible to challenge the termination in a court of law. Using circumstantial evidence, you might be able to convince a jury that you were terminated in violation of nondiscrimination law or other worker protection statute, but circumstantial evidence typically must be significant and compelling to be effective.
That does not mean, however, that employers have an unchecked right to fire you. Here are some key components of the Texas laws that govern workplace terminations:
- A valid employment agreement means you are no longer an “at-will” employee. The provisions of a valid employment agreement must be honored or the employer can be liable for breach of contract. An employment contract can be express or implied. If, for example, the employee handbook or other documents provided to the employee state that employees (in general) may not be fired other than for cause, that statement can be construed to create an implied contract. In such a case, an employee terminated for no stated reason may have a claim for wrongful discharge.
- Texas workers cannot be terminated for filing claims under state or federal discrimination statutes, such as the Equal Pay Act, the Civil Rights Act, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, and the Americans with Disabilities Act.
- Public employees in Texas cannot be terminated for failing or refusing to engage in illegal activities at the request or direction of their employer. (Note that the exception does not afford any protection to workers at private businesses.)
- An employer may not fire an employee who has filed a complaint with or otherwise reported alleged safety violations to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). The allegations must, however, be made in good faith.
- All employees in Texas have the right to take certain types of leave without fear of discharge, including time off to vote, to serve on a jury, to join and serve in the military (up to five years), and to exercise rights under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act.
- A Texas worker may not be fired for filing a legitimate workers’ compensation claim. Proving this can be extremely difficult, though, as the worker must show that he or she would not have been terminated if they had not filed the workers’ compensation claim.
Under Texas law, an employee may not be let go for filing any type of legitimate claim under state or federal wage and hour laws, including overtime claims, tips claims, or misclassification claims.
Contact the Experienced Employment Law Attorneys at Bailey & Galyen
At the law office of Bailey & Galyen, we offer a free initial consultation to every client. For an appointment with a knowledgeable and effective employment attorney, contact us by e-mail or call our offices at 844-402-2992. We will take your call 24 hours a day, seven days a week.