Employment at Will in Texas
Texas is an “at-will” state. That means an employer can fire you for any reason. An employer can fire you because you wear a red shirt to work. The employer can fire you because you fail to say hello to him one morning. Most states are “at-will.” The states that are not at-will require some form of “just cause” for termination.
There are some major exceptions to at-will employment in Texas:
1) Collective bargaining agreements almost always require some form of just cause for termination.
2) Civil service employment usually requires some form of good cause for termination.
3) Individual employment agreements almost always require some form of good cause for
Employee handbooks almost never require good cause for termination. Most employers in Texas now know to include some provision in employee handbooks stating that the handbook is *not* a contract.
The major exception to at-will employment is discrimination. Texas has a state statute that tracks Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The state statute is known as the Texas Commission on Human Rights Act. Title VII and the TCHRA prohibit discrimination based on race, color, national origin, religion, and sex. The Age Discrimination in Employment Act and the TCHRA prohibit discrimination based on age. The Americans with Disabilities Act and the TCHRA prohibit discrimination based on disability.
Texas has a few anti-retaliation statutes:
1) An employee is protected against being ordered to commit an illegal act. This claim is known as
a Sabine Pilot claim, after Sabine Pilot v. Hauck, 687 SW 2d 733(Tex. 1985). The refusal to commit
an illegal act must be the sole cause of the termination.
2) An employee is also protected because he/she served on a jury. Texas Civil Practice &
Remedies Code Sec. 122,001. An employee who believes he/she has suffered retaliation due to
jury service has two years in which to bring such a claim. The damages are limited, but still, this
statute does offer some protection.
3) Texas prohibits reprisal against an employee who reports abuse or neglect of a resident at a
nursing home. Texas Health & Safety Code Sec. 242.133. Such a lawsuit must be filed within 90
days of the alleged reprisal.
These are the few anti-retaliation statutes that have some teeth in Texas.