Texas is an at-will state, meaning your employer can fire you for a good reason, bad reason or simply no reason at all. However, there are circumstances where termination may be illegal, and you can sue your employer for damages.
Understanding wrongful termination
Wrongful termination occurs when an employer fires their employee for a reason prohibited by the law. This includes termination based on discrimination, retaliation against whistleblowing, violation of public policy and breach of contract.
Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 makes it illegal for an employer to terminate someone based on race, national origin, sex, color or religion. The Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 also prevents employers from firing workers over 40 because of their age. Similarly, the Americans with Disabilities Act protects disabled individuals against discrimination and dismissal.
The Whistleblower Protection Act deters companies from firing employees who report illegal behavior or fraudulent activity within the workplace. Under the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), firing an employee for complaining about unsafe working conditions or reporting a violation is illegal. Texas employment law also prohibits employers from firing their employees before fulfilling an employment contract.
Suing for wrongful termination
You’ll need to show that the reason for your termination was illegal. This can be difficult, especially if the employment relationship has ended before you can prove discrimination or other unlawful behavior. But if you documented any suspicious activity within the workplace or can convince some of the other employers to testify on your behalf, you might have a good chance.
Additionally, if your employer provides a written explanation for why they have terminated you, review it carefully. If it doesn’t match the facts of what happened and could suggest discrimination, then this may also provide evidence of wrongful termination.
If you intend to sue your employer, it is important to act quickly and within the statute of limitations. In Texas, the deadline for filing wrongful termination claims is 180 days from the date of your dismissal. If your suit is successful, you may be eligible for lost wages, punitive damages or job reinstatement.