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Whistleblower

There are various types of “whistleblower” claims under both Texas and federal law.  Under Texas law, most whistleblower causes of action are for government, rather than private, employees.  A word of caution, government employees are obligated to follow their employer’s INTERNAL GRIEVANCE PROCESS before bringing a whistleblower claim.  Those grievance processes frequently provide an extremely short timeline for filing a grievance–as little as fifteen days from the date of the conduct complained of.

There are other types of whistleblower claims available for specific types of employees–such as under the Texas Nursing Practice Act, Occ. Code sec. 301.352, sec. 301.4025; Health & Safety Code sec. 257.003.  Chapter 161 of the Texas Health & Safety Code makes it unlawful to retaliate (such as termination) against someone for reporting a violation of the law.  It covers all employees of hospitals, mental health facilities and treatment facilities, not just nurses.

The Sarbanes Oxley Act is a federal law that protects some whistleblowers from retaliation–those that are employees of a public company that have experienced retaliation for reporting actions that violate federal laws that relate to fraud against shareholders.   A publicly traded company is one that issues securities registered under the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 sec. 12 or is required to file reports under sec. 15(d).

A person filing under Sarbanes Oxley must prove that they engaged in a protected activity, their employer (decision-maker) knew about them engaging in the protected activity, they were subjected to an adverse employment action (such as termination) and the protected activity contributed to the adverse employment action.   Protected activity includes reporting or assisting with an investigation into securities fraud, wire fraud, mail fraud, bank fraud or provisions of federal law related to defrauding shareholders.

Any individual who believes they were fired or subjected to an adverse action from their employer in violation of Sarbanes Oxley can file a complaint with the U.S. Secretary of Labor.  If the Secretary of Labor does not issue a final decision within 180 days of the date the complaint was filed, a lawsuit can be filed in district court.

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