Whistle-Blower claims can be forced into arbitration

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in HR Management,Human Resources

Texas law makes it illegal to discipline health care workers for reporting wrongdoing to authorities. But when such employees feel they’ve been retaliated against for blowing the whistle, they can’t automatically run to court. If they’ve signed an arbitration agreement, they can be required to settle that dispute out of court.

If employees signed an arbitration agreement covering all employment claims, Texas courts won’t interfere.

Recent case: A Texas mental health facility fired Christopher Estrada and Irma Daher soon after they reported suspicious activity to the Texas Department of Disabled Services.

They sued in Texas state court, alleging that the facility fired them in violation of the Texas Health and Safety Code, which says it’s illegal to punish health care workers for reporting wrongdoing.

But both Estrada and Daher had signed arbitration agreements acknowledging that they would let an arbitrator decide most employment-related disputes. The Texas Court of Appeals said the agreement covered the whistle-blowing provisions that they were suing under, so it sent the case to arbitration. (In re December Nine Company, No. 08-06-00225, Tex. App.–El Paso, Eighth District, 2006)  

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