At Will Employment in Texas

At will employment can be a slippery slope toward discrimination.

Many people across America have lost their jobs in the face of this dreadful recession. Many of them needed to be laid off or let go because the company they worked for could no longer afford to pay their wages. Downsizing or resizing has become common and the consequences are devastating for those who lost their employment, as well as their families.

The underlying question here is whether or not a person lost their job due to the poor economy or for other nefarious reasons having to do with prejudices, illegal cost-cutting in the workplace, retaliation or blatant discrimination. Have you been terminated legally or do you suspect that something else was going on and you were wrongly fired? If you feel you were discriminated against in some form or other, then contact a Texas employment law attorney right away. While these cases may be difficult to prove, depending on the circumstances and how quickly you call a competent lawyer, you need to be made aware of your legal rights and discuss the case with someone who knows the law intimately.

The one strike you will have against you if you have been let go is that your employment, unless you have a contract, is “at will” which means you work for your employer as long as they want you and until they choose to fire you at any time for pretty much any reason. Mind you, this also means you may leave anytime you would like as well.

This doesn’t mean that you are not protected. You have the rights and guarantees of many laws which include: Chapter 21 of the Texas Labor Code and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act (1964) backing you up. These laws deal with the illegality of discrimination based on age, sex, national origin, color, race or religion. There are other laws that specifically state you may not be denied work if you have a disability; may not be terminated if you are asking for unpaid leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act; are refusing to perform an illegal act for your employer and/or if you are blowing the whistle on fraud, safety violations or environmental issues where you work. If you happen to have an employment contract in place, then you may have protection from termination under certain circumstances.

Again, look to the economy to understand the main reason behind the high numbers of jobs being lost. Take a closer look and you may also find employment discrimination going on. Consider the most recent statistics from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in Texas that state they investigated roughly 13,000 more complaints in 2008 than in 2007, and there were 95,402 charges issued against employers last year.

The hidden side of the numbers doesn’t show that sometimes when an employer is faced with cutting a portion of his staff, they may make some of those decisions based upon an improper bias. On the other hand, these numbers also reflect an increased level of awareness on the part of those who have been terminated; that they may have been fired for the wrong reasons, thus prompting them to file a complaint or lawsuit.

Do you feel that you have been wrongly terminated? If that is the case, speak to an experience attorney who will ask you the right questions to evaluate your case, find witnesses who may be able to verify your story, and assist you if your case gets to mediation or a courtroom.

Seth Wilburn writes for the Gomez Law Group, a Dallas employment lawyer and Dallas business lawyer. To learn more, visit