Is Texas an At-Will Employment State?
As an at-will employment and right-to-work state, Texas employers can fire workers for nearly any reason. Similarly, workers are able to quit for any reason, at any time. At-will employment offers flexibility and freedom for employers and employees in the workplace. However, there are limitations to when it is illegal for an employer to fire a worker, as we discuss below.
Texas Termination Laws & At-Will Exceptions
In a previous post, we discussed the at-will employment doctrine--which allows most Texas employers to fire their employees for almost any reason. We also outlined the core federal exemptions to this doctrine.
However, federal laws only provide baseline protections from wrongful termination. The state of Texas has also instituted its own laws to limit at-will employees' vulnerability to termination.
In today's post, we examine the Texas-specific laws that protect employees from unfair termination:
- Discrimination and Public Policy: Similar to federal protections, Texas also has laws that prohibit employers from firing an employee as a form of protected-class discrimination, or due to an employee's refusal to commit an illegal act.
- Workers' Compensation: Texas law prohibits an employer from retaliating against an employee for filing a worker's compensation claim, or for seeking legal representation during such a claim.
- Subpoena: An employer may not fire an employee for complying with a valid subpoena in any criminal, civil, administrative or legislative proceeding.
- Union Membership: Texas law prohibits employee termination or penalization for their membership--or lack of membership--in a labor union.
- Emergency evacuations: Following an emergency evacuation order, employees cannot be terminated for participating in such an evacuation.
- Civic duty: Texas law states that an employer cannot terminate an employee for taking time off for civic duty. This includes serving jury duty, voting, attending a political convention as a delegate or going on military leave.
- Polygraph: Private employers are prohibited from firing an employee for refusing a polygraph test under the Employee Polygraph Protection Act (EPPA). Some exceptions apply if the position is related to national security.
- Required Notice for Mass Layoffs: The Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act requires that employers provide 60 days' notice of termination when conducting a mass layoff.
While at-will employment could leave you more vulnerable to termination, it does not mean you're powerless. Many types of termination are still illegal. An employment law attorney can help you better understand your rights.