Whistleblower Protections | Retributive Acts to Punish Employees
As an employee in Texas, you have a legal right to engage in certain actions:
- You have the right to file a legitimate workers’ compensation or workplace injury claim
- You have a right to file a legitimate workplace discrimination claim
- You have the right to report illegal or unethical behavior by your employer or co-workers, including actions that violate equal employment opportunity laws
- You have the right to testify in legal proceedings that may be adverse to your employer
In addition to those rights, you are also protected by laws that prohibit your employer from imposing any type of adverse employment action in retaliation for exercising those rights. Those laws which protect you from punishment in the workplace for disclosing illegal or unethical conduct are commonly referred to as “whistleblower protection” laws.
What Types of Actions Are Protected under Workplace Retaliation and Whistleblower Protection Laws?
In Texas, employees are protected by laws enforced by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, as well as the Civil Rights Division of the Texas Workforce Commission. As a general rule, workers protected from retaliation on the job include those who:
- Objected to, spoke out or reported acts of sexual harassment, or any other type of wrongful employment-based discrimination
- Were witnesses in any proceeding or provided evidence to investigators in any legal proceeding involving the employer
- Opposed any illegal or unethical practices in the workplace
- Asked for accommodations for a disability or other right related to discrimination against a protected class
- Submitted a workplace discrimination complaint with the Texas Workforce Commission or the EEOC
- Reported illegal or unethical conduct to a governmental agency, including safety officials or law enforcement officers
It is also unlawful retaliation to punish a person who was married to or had a close relationship with someone who engaged in any of the above actions.
What Types of Conduct Are Considered to Be Retaliatory?
Virtually any employment decision or action that results in the loss of pay or the loss of opportunities for advancement can be construed as retaliatory. That includes:
- Wrongful termination, either actual or constructive (where the retaliatory conduct makes the employment so onerous that the employee quits voluntarily)
- Unmerited disciplinary actions, including probation or denial of pay for overtime or other wages
- Adverse performance reviews
- Denial of promotions or raises
- Denial of advancement opportunities, including training or educational programs available to other employees
- Assigning the employee undesirable or demeaning tasks
- Wrongful or unwarranted search of an employee’s desk, computer or file cabinets
- Unwarranted demotion or reassignment
Filing a Workplace Retaliation Claim in Texas
In Texas, workplace retaliation is considered to be a form of discrimination. Accordingly, if you believe that you have been wrongfully punished on the job for engaging in protected acts, you must first file a discrimination complaint with either the EEOC or the Texas Workforce Commission’s Civil Rights Division. The agency will then determine whether it has jurisdiction over your claim and will initially ask that you attempt to mediate the dispute (though mediation is voluntary).
If mediation is declined, the agency will investigate the claim. The agency may render a decision or may decline to do so, in which case you will receive a “right to sue” letter, allowing you to bring a lawsuit in civil court.
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 experienced employment law 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.