Texas Workplace Retaliation Laws
What Are Texas Retaliation Laws?
What are Texas retaliation laws? They are employment laws that prohibit an employer from retaliating against an employee. But what does retaliation mean in practice?
Retaliation is usually defined as any adverse action an employer takes against an employee in response to an employee’s lawful actions (such as filing a discrimination lawsuit). Retaliation can include such adverse or punishing actions as, for example, refusing to hire, refusing to promote, demoting, or terminating an employee.
There is an important difference between laws that prohibit discrimination and those that prohibit retaliation, however. Laws prohibiting discrimination prevent an employer for targeting an employee based on certain characteristics, such as race, color, sex, religion, and age.
Differently, retaliation laws prevent an employer from retaliating against an employee not because of specific characteristics, but rather based on an action the employee took (or refused to take).
What are some of the laws in Texas that protect employees against retaliation?
Employment Discrimination Laws Prohibit Retaliation
When you file an employment discrimination claim, the laws that prohibit discrimination also prohibit retaliation against an employee for alleging discrimination. Those statutes include but are not limited to:
- Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964;
- Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA);
- The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA);
- Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA); and
- Chapter 21 of the Texas Labor Code.
Protections Under the Fair Labor Standards Act
If an employee in Texas files a claim related to a minimum wage violation or overtime pay with the Texas Workforce Commission, for instance, the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) prohibits retaliation against that employee. In other words, if you file a complaint or participate in an investigation concerning minimum wage or overtime violations, your employer cannot demote you, fire you, or take any other type of retaliatory action.
Retaliation Prohibited By Federal Whistleblower Statutes
There are a number of federal statutes that protect whistleblowers against retaliation. What is a whistleblower? According to a definition from the Government Accountability Project, a whistleblower can be defined as “an employee who discloses information that s/he reasonably believes is evidence of illegality, gross waste or fraud, mismanagement, abuse of power, general wrongdoing, or a substantial and specific danger to public health and safety.”
Many whistleblower statutes require an employee to report to the appropriate regulatory agency or law enforcement agency in order to qualify for protections. To be clear, simply reporting to the employer (or someone within the company) may not protect an employee from retaliation. There is also a specific Texas Whistleblower Act that can provide employee protections in certain situations.
Protections Under the Sabine Pilot Case
In Sabine Pilot Service, Inc. v. Hauck, the Texas Supreme Court held that an employer cannot take adverse action against an employee who refuses to commit an illegal act.
Contact a Texas Employment Law Attorney
In addition to the statutes mentioned, there are a number of Texas state-specific laws that can also protect employees against retaliation in the workplace. An experienced employment law attorney in Texas can discuss your options with you today. Contact Lindquist Wood Edwards LLP for more information.