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Can you be fired for being a whistleblower?

Texas has whistleblower laws to safeguard employees from employer retaliation. These laws are in place to encourage individuals to report a business’s illegal activity without fear of being punished.

Forms of employee retaliation

Workers are protected from their employer retaliating against them. The state defines retaliation as:

  • Termination
  • Suspension
  • Demotion
  • Downgrade of responsibilities
  • Pervasive ridicule, insults, intimation or threats
  • Efforts that encourage the whistleblower to quit

Public vs. private employee

In Texas, the laws protect only public employees, not private. A public employee is any officer or employee working for a federal, state or local government body. Private employees work outside the government, such as at banks or retail stores.

When do the whistleblower laws apply?

The laws go into effect when an employee makes a complaint. The complaint does not have to be a special agency or federal commission. Should the employer address the matter with a superior within the company, their action falls under whistleblower protection.

What to do if you’re a victim of employer retaliation

Under whistleblower laws, employees can sue their employer for any pay, benefits, loss of seniority or other damages. To establish wrongful termination, the whistleblower needs to prove actions that are clearly in violation of specific whistleblower protections. Time can play an impactful role. There’s “rebuttable presumption” if adverse action occurs within 90 days of whistleblowing.

It can get shadowy here. An employer may find a thousand reasons unrelated to the complaint to justify their actions. However, the whistleblower can:

  • Gather evidence to show that the employer knows about the report.
  • Show documentation of expressed hostility about and after the reporting.
  • Prove that the employer ignored normal procedures, policies and practices in their adverse actions.

Before filing a lawsuit, a whistleblower must follow their employer’s appeal or grievance procedures. The process ensures that before going to court, every opportunity to remedy the situation was taken.