No individual liability under Texas Whistleblower Act or Labor Code

Good news: Your managers and supervisors—and anyone performing an HR function who participates in the hiring, discipline or firing of employees—aren’t individually liable for violating either the Texas Whistleblower Act (TWA) or the Texas Labor Code (TLC). That means your personal assets aren’t on the line.

Recent case: Janet Washburn tried to sue her former employer, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, and several of her supervisors and managers after she was fired for alleged poor performance.

Washburn claimed she had been denied a reasonable accommodation for breast cancer treatment and then had been intentionally transferred into a position she wasn’t qualified for as retaliation for complaining.

A federal court dismissed most of the claims because Texas government units can’t be sued in federal court under either the TWA or TLC. The court dismissed the individual claims under both those laws, too, concluding that neither allows for individual liability. (Washburn v. State of Texas, et al., No. A-07-CA-116, WD TX, 2008)

Final note: Managers and other decision-makers are personally liable under the federal FMLA and the Fair Labor Standards Act.