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Refusal to Commit an Illegal Act: Sabine Pilot

Employees across Texas, including residents of large cities like Dallas and Houston, should be able to go to work every day and exchange their best effort for a paycheck and job security. If you are a good worker, you care about following your boss’ instructions, but what if your boss asks you to engage in illegal acts? What would you do? How would you react?

Fortunately, there are Dallas employment laws in place to protect employees in cases of wrongful termination. An attorney who is knowledgeable about the state’s employment regulations and exceptions can help guide you through the process and determine how these laws may apply to your case.

Employment law in Dallas upholds the state provision that employers generally have the power to hire and fire at will. However, in cases of wrongful termination, at-will employment has exceptions, the most well-known being Sabine Pilot.

Making a Sabine Pilot Claim

The Sabine Pilot doctrine refers to judge-made exceptions that affect the power of an employer to make decisions regarding termination. While employers in at-will states can fire an employee at almost any time and for virtually any reason, they should not abuse this authority. The refusal to commit an illegal act is a Sabine Pilot exception if you and your lawyer can prove to the court that your refusal to comply with criminal activities was the only reason your boss fired you. In other words, Sabine Pilot protects employees from being dismissed for refusing to commit an unlawful act.

Hauck v. Sabine Pilot

Sabine Pilot exceptions trace back to 1985 with the case of Michael Hauck v. Sabine Pilot. Michael Hauck was a deckhand for the Sabine Pilot company. His superiors ordered him to clear out the bilge and dump its contents into the surrounding water. After noticing signs nearby that clearly stated the illegality of dumping the contents of the bilge into the nearby water, Mr. Hauck rejected his orders.

Hauck’s refusal to commit an illegal act caused Sabine Pilot to terminate his employment. He opposed this wrongful termination in court by arguing that he refused (and was fired) only out of concern for the legality of the order. Mr. Hauck won the case before the Texas State Supreme Court, and the Sabine Pilot doctrine was born.

Peine v. HIT Services

Joseph Peine’s case against HIT Services further defined parameters of the Sabine Pilot rule in Texas. After HIT Services hired Peine as the chief financial advisor, he soon realized his bosses wanted him to “fix” the numbers and amend their books. He recognized their instructions as possibly criminal and refused to carry out the orders. His superiors did not fire him immediately.

If they had fired him solely for this insubordination, his attorney might have been able to argue that his case fell under Sabine Pilot. Instead, Peine brought his story to a reporter, thereby violating his company’s confidentiality policy. Instead, HIT fired Peine for breaking confidentiality, and the court ruled in HIT Services’ favor.

Contact Our Dallas Employment Lawyers Today

If you live in Dallas, Fort Worth, or anywhere in the surrounding region and lost your job for refusal to commit an illegal act, Sabine Pilot might help you. At Carabin Shaw, our wrongful termination lawyers in Dallas have more than 20 years of experience protecting the rights of those who have been wrongfully terminated.

Though each case is different, you could receive compensation for lost wages, potential future wages, or even reinstatement to your job, if appropriate. At Carabin Shaw, we know that losing a job can place stress on your finances, so we will not charge you unless we win your case. Additionally, our Dallas employment lawyers offer first-time clients a free in-person consultation to help answer all your questions, and we will not charge you unless we win your case.

Call a Carabin Shaw lawyer toll-free at 800-862-1260.

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

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