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Some internal complaints may qualify as whistle-blowing

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The Texas Whistleblower Act protects some employees who report violations of the law to “an appropriate law enforcement authority.” But does that include complaining up the employer’s chain of command? Sometimes.

Recent case: Oliver Okoli, a caseworker for the Texas Department of Human Services, suspected his supervisor was falsifying dates and documents. He reported his suspicions to successively higher-ranking supervisors within the department.

When Okoli was fired, he sued, alleging he was a covered whistle-blower.

The department argued that reporting the allegations up the chain of command didn’t count as reporting alleged wrongdoing to an appropriate law enforcement authority.

The Court of Appeals of Texas sided with Okoli. It wrote that when a government employee internally reports alleged wrongdoing, that can count as whistle-blowing. (Texas Department of Human Services v. Okoli, No. 01-07-00103, Court of Appeals of Texas, 1st District, 2010)

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