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Were You Terminated for Refusing to Commit an Illegal Act?

If you live in Houston and you refused to carry out illegal actions at the behest of your employer and your employer then fired you for insubordination, you may be able to file a lawsuit. When superiors direct employees to perform acts that are illegal or criminal, employment laws, which uphold and protect an employee’s right to refuse to carry out illegal actions, protect Texas employees.

Employers generally have the right to terminate employees at any time and for any reason. However, this does not mean that employers can operate without limits, especially when their demands involve criminal activity. Thus, if your employer terminated you for refusing to commit an illegal act, you may be eligible to pursue legal action with the help of a lawyer.

Wrongful Discharge

At Carabin Shaw, we understand that sudden termination can damage your family’s financial security and wellbeing, and we believe it should never come as a byproduct of attempting to do the right thing. For a firing to be considered wrongful termination (wrongful discharge), you and your attorney must be able to prove a few aspects for a successful case:

  • That you actually refused to perform the act and then were discharged as a result.
    • If you accept the task, carry it out, and then you are fired after the fact, you may not have a case.
  • That this refusal was the ONLY reason/motive for termination.
  • You must also be able to prove that your employer in some way directly ordered you to break the law and perform an illegal act.
    • This criterion does not, however, mean that the employer has to definitively state that the employee will be fired if the action is not carried out.

If, for example, a Houston employer requests that you sign falsified documents or federal administrative forms, and you refuse and are fired, you may have a case against your employer. However, if you report an illegal act, or are asked not to do so and do anyway, these circumstances alone may not constitute a lawsuit. At Carabin Shaw, we understand that figuring out if you have a solid case can be difficult, so our lawyers are here to help you.

Sabine Pilot Claims

If you live in Houston and were terminated for refusing to commit an illegal act, then you should know that there is a legal exception in cases of wrongful termination known as the Sabine Pilot exception. The Sabine Pilot exception upholds that, regardless of the at-will circumstances of the firing, Texas employees cannot be fired for refusing to do something illegal.

Peine v. HIT Services LP

In 2007, appellee HIT Services hired accountant George Peine to be the company’s CFO and manage and amend the business’ finances. Up to this point, HIT had a history of inflating earnings and affecting the numbers. It soon became clear to Peine that they wanted him to cover their tracks financially, overstate profits, and falsify records of the company’s earnings.

After expressing concerns about the legality of his instructions, Peine’s superiors threatened to “clean house” if he did not comply. Peine then leaked his experience to a reporter, which prompted his superiors to fire him. Even if his bosses were actively looking for a reason to terminate Peine, or threatening to do so, the court ruled that it was the communication with a reporter about private business affairs (illegal or no) that ultimately led Peine’s employers to fire him. It became clear in court that it was not solely Peine’s refusal that caused his termination.

Our Houston Employment Lawyers Are Here for You!

If you were terminated for refusing to commit an illegal act, you might have a case against your employer. At Carabin Shaw, our lawyers believe that employees dealing with wrongful termination in Houston deserve a chance to fight for their right to compensation. Our team understands the parameters of Houston employment law and can help you determine what your case may be worth.

For more information about enlisting the services of our attorneys, contact the Houston employment lawyers from Carabin Shaw today, toll-free at 800-682-1260 to schedule a free consultation. We have representatives standing by around the clock to help you move forward with your claim.

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

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