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Houston Employment Law: Wrongful Termination Damages

If you are an honest worker, you expect that you will not have to do anything illegal for your employer. But what happens if your superiors suggest you engage in illicit activity that goes beyond what is appropriate or legal? In these circumstances, the law should protect Houston workers at any company and in all industries. Under state and local Houston employment law, compensation for damages related to wrongful termination may include areas such as pain and suffering, loss of wages, loss of benefits, and emotional harm.

Texas employment law, in keeping with most other states’ laws, generally dictate that an employer has the power to hire and fire as they see fit. However, this does not mean that a boss should be able to abuse this power or use it unfairly to influence the employment of his or her workers. If you believe your employer wrongfully terminated you, our lawyers can answer some of your questions. At Carabin Shaw, we know the ins and outs of Houston employment law and wrongful termination damages, and we are here to help you.

Sabine Pilot: The Exception to the Rule

Wrongful termination lawyers in Houston know that all workers in the city are at-will employees, which means that their employer can fire them at any time for almost any reason. A key exception to this rule is the Sabine Pilot doctrine. Sabine Pilot cases are those in which a company bases an employee’s termination solely on his or her refusal to commit illegal acts. Thus, the Sabine Pilot exception protects Houston employees who attempt to do the right thing and are punished for refusing to do otherwise.

A strong Sabine Pilot claim will prove that you, the employee, experienced adverse professional consequences for not carrying through unlawful directions. The following two examples, Hauck v. Sabine Pilot and Peine v. HIT Services, will help you understand the difference between a successful and unsuccessful Sabine Pilot case. For more specific questions about Houston employment law and wrongful termination damages, speak to an attorney today.

Hauck v. Sabine Pilot

In 1985, Michael Hauck was a deckhand for Sabine Pilot service. His bosses instructed him to dump the contents of a bilge into nearby waters. After receiving these instructions, Hauck noticed signs that forbade this action and clearly stated the illegality of dumping sewage into the waters. Hauck’s superiors terminated him when he refused to comply with their directive.

Hauck’s lawyers argued that his refusal to commit an unlawful act was within his rights. Because it was the sole reason for his termination, the Texas State Supreme Court ruled that the general constraints of at-will employment did not apply and that Hauck’s employers were accountable for his wrongful termination.

Peine v. HIT Services

Another notable example of the Sabine Pilot doctrine happened about ten years ago in the Texas case of Peine v. HIT Services. Joseph Peine was brought on by HIT Services as a financial advisor and soon found himself in a precarious situation. His superiors instructed him to fix financial reports and “clean up” the company’s books, and he recognized the order as possibly criminal. He refused to tamper with the books, and HIT Services held off firing him because they felt this was insufficient for termination.

The Sabine Pilot rule did not apply in Peine’s case because, instead of dealing directly with his employer on this matter, he relayed his concerns to a reporter instead of a lawyer or company representative. Thus, the court ruled that Peine had violated his employment confidentiality, and HIT Services had grounds for termination beyond his refusal to adjust the books.

Contact Our Houston Employment Lawyers Today

If you live in Houston and think you may have a case against your employer, there is a Carabin Shaw lawyer ready to take on your case. Our team understands Houston employment law and wrongful termination damages, and we are here to help you secure compensation, justice, and peace of mind. Your initial consultation with us is free, and we will not charge you unless we win your case.

Contact our Houston employment lawyers today. To reach us today, call toll-free at 800-862-1260.

Visits with the Attorney are by appointment only. Main office San Antonio, Texas.

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