At-Will Employment Relationships In Texas, The Basics

Wrongful termination claims can be challenging in Texas due to the fact that most jobs are considered at-will — meaning an employer is typically free to fire an employee whenever it wishes. In Texas, the law presumes employment relationships to be at-will.

An employer in Texas need not even demonstrate good faith for terminating an at-will employment relationship. In fact, an at-will employee may be fired for any reason, including for good cause, bad cause or no cause at all.

However, the presumption of at-will employment may be negated under Texas law in two ways:

  • By contract
  • By express policies, such as those contained in an employee manual that limit the circumstances and conditions in which an employee may be fired

For instance, if an employment contract exists that unequivocally indicates an employer's clear intent to be bound not to fire an employee — except under certain circumstances — the at-will employment doctrine may no longer apply. This means that a discharged employee may have a cause of action against an employer if his or her firing breaches the employment contract.

Additionally, an employee manual may also alter the traditional at-will relationship if it expressly and specifically limits an employer's right to fire an employee. However, if the employment manual contains a disclaimer stating that the at-will employment relationship will not be impacted by anything contained within the manual, the relationship will normally continue to be considered at-will regardless of whether the manual's remaining provisions imply otherwise.

Discrimination and retaliation

It is worth noting that an at-will employee may have a viable cause of action if he or she is fired in violation of the many laws that prohibit discrimination or retaliation. For example, if an individual is discharged because of his or her race, gender, age, national origin or even disability, federal laws dictate that the individual may be able to pursue several legal remedies.

Similarly, if an individual is retaliated against by his or her employer for engaging in a legally protected activity — such as filing a workers' comp claim or acting as a whistleblower — the individual may also be entitled to take legal action.

Consequently, if you believe you have been wrongfully terminated, it is best to seek the counsel of an experienced employment law attorney. A skilled attorney can help guide you through these complex and often confusing laws as well as assist you with filing any relevant claims. Contact an attorney today to learn what your rights and options may be in your particular circumstances.