As a business owner or operator in Texas, you know that you have to let employees go from time to time. While no worker is generally happy about losing his or her job, there are situations when a terminated employee may claim his or her firing was unjust. In order to help protect yourself from unnecessary litigation, it benefits you to understand what qualifies as wrongful termination in Texas.
The state of Texas is an employment at will state. This generally means an employer or a worker may end an employment relationship at any time. Either the employer or the employee may do this without any notice and for any, or no, reason. There are, however, certain exceptions to this rule.
Under Texas state law, there are some common law exceptions and court-ruling exceptions to at will employment. According to the Texas Workforce Commission, it may be considered a wrongful termination if you discharge a worker because he or she refused to commit a criminal offense. Likewise, you cannot dismiss an employee if doing so would violate the express employment agreement you have with that worker. Based on a court ruling, you cannot suddenly terminate employees for violating policies that you have a history of not enforcing.
There are also statutory exceptions to at will employment in the state of Texas. According to the Texas Workforce Commission, you cannot legally discharge an employee based on certain state and federal discrimination statutes. These include the following:
Furthermore, it may be considered a wrongful discharge if you terminate a worker’s employment because he or she reported suspected wrongdoing or filed an Occupational Safety and Health Administration, workers’ compensation or discrimination complaint. Missing substantial time from work may generally be grounds for termination. Military service and jury duty, however, are considered statutory exceptions to the state’s employment at will doctrine.
While this post has provided an overview of wrongful termination in Texas, it is important for you to remember that each case is unique. As such, you should not take this as legal advice. Rather, this post should only be considered general information.