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Not so fast! Texas whistle-blowers must pursue internal remedies before they can sue

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in Employment Law,Human Resources

Texas law requires public employees who are fired by their employing agency to pursue internal appeals of that decision. Otherwise, they can’t sue in state court over alleged wrongful discharge for whistle-blowing.

Government employers should make sure they raise that defense if they don’t have any record of the worker making an internal appeal.

Recent case: Vickie claims she was punished in retaliation for telling police that she had been asked to falsify financial records for the city of Bertram to show compliance with the conditions of a grant. She recounted that the city relieved her of some duties and reduced her to a part-time position.

She sued, alleging retaliation under Texas’ Whistleblower Act. The city of Bertram argued that Vickie couldn’t sue because she hadn’t appealed the decision through the city’s grievance process, as required by the Whistleblower Act.

The court agreed Vickie had to appeal and have that appeal turned down before she could sue. The court told her she has to show what the appeal process was and that she had complied with it. (City of Bertram v. Reinhardt, No. 03-14-00296, Court of Appeals of Texas, 2015)

Final note: Do you work for a government agency? Make it easy for employees to figure out how and where to file a grievance about a personnel action. For example, routinely log appeals to help you counter claims that an employee did use the process. No record of an appeal? Then no lawsuit.

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