Having One Employee in Texas Opens a Company up to a Lawsuit

A company recently discovered that simply having one employee in Texas was enough to get it sued for violating that employee's rights. The company assumed wrongly that it would not be held liable for poor treatment and wrongful termination of the only employee it had in Texas. A judge found otherwise.

A Texas man worked as the sole employee for an Ohio company. The man worked out of his home office and was regarded as a valued employee. At one point, he won an employee-of-the-year award before being terminated. 

The issue at hand was the man's wife, who had a serious condition but was in remission after treatment. She eventually developed a type of cancer that required specialized treatment. The man informed high-level corporate managers at the company and wound up being fired shortly after the disclosure. 

The Texas man took issue with his employers' summary dismissal and turned to the federal court in Houston. There, he sued his employer for violating the Americans with Disabilities Act by firing him and depriving a couple of health insurance benefits. The argument made in court was that the company fired him after learning that the man's wife required specialized medical treatments to treat her lymphoma.

The Ohio company tried to get the case dismissed, claiming that it was exempt from being sued in Texas and that it was too inconvenient for company representatives to come to a Texas court. The court disagreed with both arguments. It felt that having one employee was enough to establish a physical presence in the state. The court also decided that the inconvenience to the company was a minor nuisance when compared to the inconvenience the man and his wife would undergo if they had to travel to Ohio for the trial.

One of the aspects of the ADA is to protect employees who become ill from employers who seek to act improperly against their employees. An employee who has suffered improper termination has the right to file suit and seek compensation for rights violations.

Source: Business Management Daily, "Even one employee in Texas? Then he can sue you in Texas courts," Feb. 10, 2014