A jury in Dallas, Texas, sided with a man who used to work for the city as an electrician in an employment law suit. The former employee of the city said that he was wrongfully terminated after he reported that a coworker was stealing city property.
He says that after he originally complained in 2009, the city did nothing. He continued to make his concerns about the illegal conduct known to the appropriate authorities and was subsequently stripped of his supervisory duties.
Denying someone work opportunities or stripping them of parts of their job in response to a complaint about wrongdoing is considered retaliation in employment law, and is illegal in Texas. The jury found that the man was the victim of retaliation and awarded him $200,000 to compensate him for lost wages and the mental anguish that resulted from the city's actions.
The city continues to deny the claims and is expected to appeal the decision. During the trial, the city manager testified that she didn't remember many of the details of the situation with the electrician but city layoffs that occurred in 2009 were handled properly and that the man in this case was not wrongfully terminated.
Whistleblower protection laws are an important part of employment law in Texas because they help give employees who witness wrongdoing in the workplace the confidence to report the misconduct. In theory, the laws should prevent employers from retaliating against workers in cases like this one, but unfortunately some employees must pursue justice in a civil case.
Source: Dallas Morning News, "Fired electrician awarded $200,000 in 'whistleblower' lawsuit against city of Dallas," Steve Thompson, Oct. 30, 2012.
More information about employee's rights in Texas can be found on our whistleblower protection page.