Articles Posted in Retaliatory Discharge

It is not unusual for a Dallas employment law matter that should, by rights, involve only a single issue to grow into a multi-faceted “shotgun” approach (colloquially speaking) lawsuit that adds unnecessary claims, complications, and expenses to what should be a fairly simple matter to resolve. A recent case that began as a whistleblower claim but grew to include several other allegations is illustrative. Fortunately for the employer, the appellate court eventually dismissed not only the add-on claims but the original one, as well.

Facts of the Case

The plaintiff in a recent case filed in Jefferson County, Texas, was a county jail employee who filed suit against the defendant county, asserting a claim as an alleged whistleblower. According to the plaintiff, she was demoted when she should have been promoted, in retaliation for refusal to cooperate with an internal affairs investigation of a co-worker who purportedly had a sexual encounter with an inmate at the jail.

When the plaintiff originally filed her lawsuit in September 2015, she only claimed that the defendant’s conduct was in violation of the Texas Whistleblower Act, but she later amended her pleadings to include an employment discrimination claim under the Texas Commission on Human Rights Act. She also alleged that the defendant had violated a collective bargaining agreement to which it was a party and that the plaintiff’s rights under the Texas Constitution had been violated.

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Arbitration agreements have become increasingly popular over the past several years. In the case of arbitration agreements pertaining to employment law issues, such as a Dallas employment discrimination claim, an arbitration agreement is much more likely to have been drafted by the employer (or its legal representatives) than by the employee.

Thus, an employee may have the belief that arbitration will unfairly favor the employer and that the employee would be “better off” to go to trial rather than have his or her claims decided by an arbitrator. In such a situation, the employee may seek to avoid the terms of an arbitration contract if at all possible.

Facts of the Case

In a recent case, the real party in interest was the plaintiff in a lawsuit accusing the defendant employer of employment discrimination and retaliation in violation of the Texas Labor Code. The defendant sought to compel arbitration of the plaintiff’s claim, relying on an arbitration agreement that was allegedly electronically signed by the plaintiff. The defendant’s human resource generalist signed an affidavit supporting the defendant’s motion, attaching the arbitration agreement and related documents.

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Not every Dallas employment litigation case arises from allegations of age or race discrimination or accusations of sexual harassment. Sometimes, litigation arises as a result of an alleged violation of another law, such as the Texas Whistleblower Act (codified at Tex. Gov’t Code §§ 554.001 et seq.).

Under the Texas Whistleblower Act, a state or local governmental entity may not take adverse personnel action against a public employee who, in good faith, reports wrongdoing by another employee or a governmental entity. If an employee can prove that such an adverse action has been taken against him or her in retaliation for “blowing the whistle,” he or she may be entitled to injunctive relief, money damages, and/or attorney fees.

Facts of the Case

In a case recently ruled upon by the Court of Appeals for the Eighth District of Texas, the plaintiff was a former police officer. He filed suit against the defendants, a city and its police department, seeking a remedy under the Texas Whistleblower Act. According to the plaintiff, he was terminated after some seven years of service because he reported that his supervising officer was attempting to have narcotics planted in his ex-wife’s vehicle (the supervisor and his wife were engaged in a custody dispute at the time). The plaintiff made the report sometime in July 2012 and was dishonorably discharged later that month on other grounds.

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When a former employee files a retaliatory discharge complaint against a Dallas area employer, the employer has the right to engage in a “discovery” process designed to learn more about the plaintiff’s allegations. Information obtained during discovery helps the defendant prepare for trial and, sometimes, aids in the facilitation of a settlement between the parties. If you have questions about a situation at your place of work that led to termination, reach out to a Dallas employment law attorney.

Because discovery is an important part of the legal process, a party’s failure to meaningfully participate in the discovery process is highly disfavored by the courts and can result in serious consequences.

Facts of the Case

In an appellate case recently under consideration by the Court of Appeals for the Second Appellate District of Texas at Fort Worth, the plaintiff was a man who sued the defendant (his former employer) for wrongful termination. According to the plaintiff’s allegations, he was fired in retaliation for reporting Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) violations against the defendant.

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Sometimes, an employer can do everything in its power to “work with” an employee, giving him or her the benefit of every doubt, and yet still find itself on the wrong end of a Dallas employment law case.

In a recent case, an employer did not immediately terminate a delivery driver whose drivers’ license was suspended due to drunk driving, placing him in a non-driving position instead. Nevertheless, the employee filed multiple union grievances, an OSHA complaint (after falling in a liquid substance at work), and, eventually, a lawsuit against the employer.

Facts of the Case

For an employee who believes that he or she has been the victim of a wrongful act in the workplace, an important step in a Dallas employment discrimination lawsuit is the filing of a claim with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) within 180 days of an alleged unlawful employment practice.

When this does not happen, an employer may be able to have a subsequent claim in state or federal court dismissed due to the plaintiff’s failure to exhaust his or her administrative remedies. Sometimes a claim is filed, but the parties later disagree about whether the plaintiff’s EEOC charge properly put the defendant on notice of his or her allegations.

Facts of the Case

In a recent case, the plaintiff was a bistro manager who alleged that she was the victim of unwanted sexual advances and harassment from the director of dining services at the defendant college. According to the plaintiff, the director touched her inappropriately, made sexual comments to her, kissed her neck, and made lewd comments about her body. She also averred that, after she reported the director’s conduct to the assistant director, she was ordered to close the bistro single-handedly in retaliation for her complaint. She further claimed that, due to her demanding workload, she was hospitalized for high blood pressure and then terminated for insubordination in March 2017. Continue reading

Since Texas is an “employment at-will” state, generally employees can be fired for good cause, no cause, or even bad cause – as long as the “cause” is not illegal under state or federal law (such as age or race discrimination). Still, it is not unusual for a retaliatory discharge claim to be filed against an employer that acted legally. If your business has found itself in this situation, you should talk to a qualified Dallas employment defense attorney as soon as possible.

Facts of the Case

In a case recently reviewed by the Court of Appeals for the Fifth District of Texas at Dallas, the plaintiff was a former employee of a convenience store. She complained that the defendant store had engaged in a retaliatory discharge when it fired her after some 25 years of employment (for 23 years of which she had worked as a store manager). According to the plaintiff, the termination of her employment was a direct result of her reporting an instance of sexual harassment involving a subordinate employee (who claimed to have been sexually harassed by a male store manager).

Texas employment cases can involve many different types of claims – some under state law, some under federal law, and sometimes some under both. The resolution of such issues can be a time-consuming and costly endeavor, so it is important that a Dallas business approach a potential claim in a proactive and assertive manner.

Facts of the Case

The plaintiff in a recent employment discrimination case was a groundskeeper who was terminated from his job in the maintenance department of the defendant school district. He filed a complaint in federal district court, alleging that his termination was in violation of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967. He further claimed that the defendant had violated his First Amendment rights in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1983 by firing him in retaliation for statements he made outside the workplace concerning an investigation of his supervisor.

Sexual harassment has been a hot topic in the media in recent months, with several well-known celebrities jumping on the “#metoo” bandwagon – some with claims that go back many years (or even decades).

Of course, an allegation is simply one person’s word that a particular act happened; it may or may not be true. While an accusation can damage the alleged offender’s reputation, holding the alleged offender or his or her employer liable in court in a Texas sexual harassment lawsuit can be a much more difficult task. To quote the Texas Supreme Court’s opinion in a recent case in which a plaintiff’s claims of same-sex sexual harassment and retaliation were ultimately dismissed, “an employer’s liability is determined by the statute the Legislature enacted, not well-meaning judges.”

Facts of the Case

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