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Internal complaint not enough: Whistle-blowers must file report with police

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in Employment Law,Human Resources

Texas government employees who blow the whistle on their employers are protected from retaliation. But it takes more than just voicing an internal complaint or even cooperating in an audit to make a claim of whistle-blower retaliation stick.

The Texas Whistleblower Act requires that the employee’s report be made to an “appropriate law enforcement authority ... if the authority is part of a state or local government entity or 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.”

Merely reporting the allegation internally isn’t enough.

Recent case: Dijaira worked as director of finance for the University Interscholastic League (UIL) at the University of Texas at Austin. When the university’s Office of Internal Audits told her that it wanted to investigate the UIL, Dijaira agreed to cooperate. She subsequently made a series of allegations about improprieties she believed had taken place.

Soon after, she was terminated. She sued for retaliation, alleging she was a whistle-blower under the Texas Whistleblower Act.

The university disagreed, arguing she had not reported her allegations to outside law enforcement or an agency charged with enforcing the law.

The court sided with the university and threw out the case. (Smith v. University of Texas at Austin, No. 03-14-00509, Court of Appeals of Texas, 2015)

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