“Whistleblowers” are employees who report wrongdoing in the workplace to a superior, a law enforcement agency, a governmental agency, or the public. Whistleblowers often take such actions at the risk of losing their jobs and careers. Unfortunately, despite the enormous benefit the public receives from whistleblower actions, in Texas, not all “whistleblower” activity is protected by the law. In some circumstances, a whistleblower may even be legally fired for reporting a violation of the law by his or her employer and may be left without remedy or recourse. In fact, in Texas a business scandal that rocked the country and financially ruined thousands of Americans, the Texas Legislature has reduced some whistleblower protections over the past decades in the name of tort reform. Unlike other states where whistleblower laws provide much greater protection for employees, in Texas there is a lot of “whistleblowing” that leaves a Texas employee unprotected.
The Texas Whistleblower Act provides legal rights for public (and not private) employees who report certain violations of laws by the employing governmental entity or another public employee to an appropriate law enforcement authority. The Texas Whistleblower Act may be found in Section 554.001 of the Texas Government Code. In a lawsuit under the Whistleblower Act, an employee may seek to recover injunctive relief (including reinstatement), actual damages, back pay, front pay, court costs, and attorney’s fees. Since 1995, punitive damages are not available under the Act and other damages have been capped by the Texas Legislature.
An employee seeking to advance his or her rights under the Texas Whistleblower Act must move very quickly. If a public employer has a grievance or appeal procedure, an employee suing that employer must first exhaust that administrative remedy before filing suit and must do so quickly. Because the requirements for filing suit and exhausting administrative remedies under the Act are complex and time sensitive, if you feel you may have rights under the Texas Whistleblower Act, you should contact an attorney immediately.
Source: Texas Municipal League