If you are like most workers in Texas, you are an at-will employee, which gives your employer the right to terminate you for no reason or for a completely arbitrary reason. However, you may fall into a narrow exception to this rule if you are discharged because your employer asked you to engage in a criminal act and you refused to do so. In this situation, you may have a wrongful discharge claim against your employer and be entitled to compensation for your losses.
How the Criminal Act Exception to At-Will Employment Works
This type of claim is a public policy exception created by the Texas Supreme Court in a case called Sabine Pilot and is designed to encourage employees to follow the law and to discourage employers from asking them to commit illegal acts. But the exception only applies in limited situations. Here’s what must be established to have a valid wrongful discharge claim:
● An employee must show that he was fired or constructively discharged solely because he refused to commit a criminal act. If there is any other reason for the discharge, such as the worker’s age or job performance, this exception does not apply.
● The act that the person refused to perform must have violated criminal, not civil, law.
● The employer must have requested that the worker commit the criminal act. No advance, express threat that he would be fired if he refused the request is required for this exception to apply.
Examples of illegal termination under this rule include being fired for refusing to violate environmental laws or refusing to sign false insurance forms. However, reporting a criminal act—even if asked not to by a supervisor—would not be grounds for a wrongful discharge claim (except possibly for public employees, who may have the benefit of the Texas Whistleblower Act.
Do you believe you were fired because you refused to commit a criminal act? Attorney Walt Taylor can help you hold your employer accountable for compensating you for your lost wages and the other damages you may be entitled to. He represents clients throughout the Dallas-Fort Worth and Mid-Cities areas. To learn about his extensive experience fighting for the rights of workers wrongfully terminated, call our office directly at 817.380.4888 to schedule your free consultation today.