A Texas employee who witnesses an illegal or immoral act in the workplace may have conflicting feelings over reporting the information. Fear of wrongful termination or employer retaliation can sometimes be difficult to overcome when deciding to act with integrity and make a report. A recent Supreme Court ruling decreed that employees who testify regarding public concerns that include corruption are protected from wrongful termination in response.
The ruling was reached in a case regarding a man who suffered wrongful termination following his accusations against a legislator who collected paychecks without providing rightful service in return. The employee discovered this information during an audit he performed shortly after he was hired. Although colleagues warned him about speaking up about the legislator’s misconduct, the worker proceeded with exposing the potential waste of taxpayer money.
He made the ultimate decision to terminate the legislator and was asked to testify by subpoena for the FBI regarding an investigation that included the accused legislator. After he testified in the corruption case, the worker claimed that he was wrongfully terminated by his employer for speaking out. The court ruling determined that the public employee should have his constitutional First Amendment free speech rights protected and should not have been penalized for his obligation to testify truthfully.
A person who is penalized for their honesty in the courtroom may feel anger and injustice after they lose their job for sharing information affects the good will of the public. Wrongful termination out of retaliation for reporting or providing testimony on a serious matter may now be a punishable offense for some Texas employers, following this latest Supreme Court decision to protect public employees' constitutional rights. Some victims may choose to pursue civil action in an attempt to retain their professional position and collect lost wages that may have accrued.
Source: tpr.org, "From Supreme Court, Firm Support For Employee In Retaliation Case", Nina Totenberg, June 19, 2014