Discrimination for Refusal to Perform an Illegal Act
Employment-at-Will. Texas is an “at-will” employment state, which generally means that employers and employees can terminate the employment relationship for a good reason, bad reason, or no reason, so long as the reason is not an “illegal” reason. This means that under most circumstances (absent an employment contract) you can quit your job at any time and for any reason without any fear of legal consequences. Your employer can also fire you for any reason, good or bad, without fear of legal consequences. Because the state of Texas does not like to meddle into how private employers handle their business, there are very few exceptions to the at-will employment doctrine.
Prohibited Conduct. One exception to this rule is that it is illegal to terminate an employee for his or her failure to perform an illegal act . In Texas, we call this the Sabine Pilot exception to the employment at-will doctrine. See Sabine Pilot Service, Inc. v. Hauck, 687 S.W.2d 733 (1985). To successfully make a claim for termination of an employee for refusing to commit an illegal act, the claimant must prove that he was terminated for the sole reason that he refused to commit an unlawful act. If you are forced to resign, the law considers this the same as a termination.
Evidentiary Considerations. As in most employment law claims, these cases are “she said, he said” type cases and therefore documenting everything that occurs is very important. You are encouraged to keep a diary or journal of what is going on at work as well as keeping copies of all correspondence to and from your employer (written complaints to the HR department, emails to and from your supervisor and/or coworkers, and any other relevant documents). If you are in San Antonio, or within the state of Texas, you can also make audio recordings of conversations without the other parties’ consent or knowledge as long as you are in the same room as the recording device. See this resource for the legalities of audio recordings in Texas.
Statute of Limitations. The statute of limitations to file a Sabine Pilot claim is two years from the date of termination.
Damages. A worker that successfully pursues a lawsuit under the Sabine Pilot cause of action may be entitled to actual damages that include 1) past lost wages and benefits, 2) future lost wages and benefits, and 3) damages for mental anguish. In addition, a prevailing worker in a wrongful termination lawsuit under Sabine Pilot may be entitled to punitive damages, prejudgment interest, and court costs. In some instances, the court may order such for a prevailing plaintiff employee to be reinstated to his or her prior position.Call us!
If you or a loved one has been subject to retaliation for filing a Workers’ Compensation claim please contact the attorneys of Carabin & Shaw in San Antonio today. We offer free initial consultations and work on a contingent fee basis, which means that there is never a fee unless we successfully resolve your case. Our experienced San Antonio employment lawyers will know how to deal with Sabine Pilot claims so you don’t have to.
For immediate assistance and to set up a free consultation with one of our experienced lawyers, call us toll-free at 800-862-1260.
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