Texas Whistleblower Act

Oftentimes, public employees are hesitant to report behavior or occurrences of the public employing entity to an appropriate law enforcement authorities. Fortunately, the Texas Whistleblower Act was implemented in order to protect individuals who report such behavior or occurrences. What is the Texas Whistleblower Act? Let’s discuss.

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What is the Texas Whistleblower Act?

The Texas Whistleblower Act strictly prohibits a city from taking an unfavorable action against an employee who reports a violation of a law by the employing city or another public employee to an appropriate law enforcement authority.

Chapter 554 of the Texas Government Code, outlines the Texas Whistleblower Act. The Act states,

(a)  A state or local governmental entity may not suspend or terminate the employment of, or take other adverse personnel action against, a public employee who in good faith reports a violation of law by the employing governmental entity or another public employee to an appropriate law enforcement authority.

(b)  In this section, a report is made to an appropriate law enforcement authority if the authority is a part of a state or local governmental entity or of the federal government that the employee in good faith believes is authorized to:

  1. regulate under or enforce the law alleged to be violated in the report;  or
  2. investigate or prosecute a violation of criminal law.

In sum, the Act protects and supplies remedies to employees who acted with good faith while report the violation. The employee must have had a good faith belief to report the violation; additionally the good faith belief must be reasonable.

The statute itself is vague as to what constitutes an appropriate law enforcement authority. Legal precedent set by Texas case law defines an appropriate law enforcement authority as an agency that has the authority to regulate under, investigate, enforce and prosecute a violation of the employment retaliation laws.

Who is Protected under the Whistleblower Act?

The Act provides protection for the following employees,

(a)  A public employee whose employment is suspended or terminated or who is subjected to an adverse personnel action in violation of Section 554.002 is entitled to sue for:

  1. injunctive relief;
  2. actual damages;
  3. court costs;  and
  4. reasonable attorney fees.

It is important to note that under this subsection of the Act, in order to be eligible for relief, the public employee must have actually been suspended, terminated, or who is subjected to adverse personnel action.

What Remedies are Available under the Whistleblower Act?

In addition to injunctive relief, actual damages, court costs, and reasonable attorney fees, a public employee may also recover the following under the Act:

(b)  In addition to relief under Subsection (a), a public employee whose employment is suspended or terminated in violation of this chapter is entitled to:

  1. reinstatement to the employee’s former position or an equivalent position;
  2. compensation for wages lost during the period of suspension or termination;  and
  3. reinstatement of fringe benefits and seniority rights lost because of the suspension or termination.

What Notice is Required under the Whistleblower Act?

The Whistleblower Act requires that certain notice requirements be met; Section 554.009 of the Act states,

(a)  A state or local governmental entity shall inform its employees of their rights under this chapter by posting a sign in a prominent location in the workplace.

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