“For well over a century,the general rule in this State has been that absent a specific agreement to the contrary,employment may be terminated by the
employer or the employee at will, for good cause, bad cause, or no cause at all.” This statement regarding at-will employment has been the law in the State of Texas and has been enforced with more gusto in the State of Texas than in any other state. So What does at-will really mean? How is at-will employment fair to Texas employees?
In El Paso, Texas I receive calls almost every day from someone who wants to sue their employer for general “wrongful termination”? I try and explain to them that in Texas, unless there is a law that prohibits the employer from terminating you, then the employer does not have to have a good reason to fire you. You cannot sue in Texas for general wrongful termination or general workplace harassment or even general retaliation. You have to have a specific employment law that protects you to file these claims. At-will employment creates a lot of unfairness to Texas employees. However Courts have stated that they will not interfere in the daily decisions of businesses and therefore will not “second-guess” the decision of employers in termination, promotion, demotion and pay decisions absent a specific violation of an employment law.
So what are the illegal reasons for firing an employee? Actually there are quite a few laws that protect employees from their employers bad decisions but these laws generally boil down to termination decisions or employment decisions based on race, color, sex, national origin (such as being Hispanic or of Mexican heritage), age, disability,refusing to do an illegal act, filing a workers’ compensation claim (reporting a work injury to your employer), retaliation for complaining about workplace safety (in some circumstances), complaining about not being properly paid minimum wage or overtime, or industry specific laws (such as for Truck Drivers and Public Transportation Workers, Nursing Home workers as well as a few other reasons). The law is complicated but there really is no general “wrongful termination” law that applies in El Paso, Texas. To have a viable wrongful termination claim, you have to fit your wrongful termination into an illegal reason before you can sue your employer. At-will employment means what it says; you work at the will of your employer unless you have a contract (which is very rare except for some high paid executive and some sales persons) or a collective bargaining agreement (you are part of a union). It is therefore very important that if you believe you are going to be terminated that you speak to an experienced, Texas Board Certified, employment lawyer before your termination. An experienced employment lawyer can help you understand what rights you have and can help you navigate the complicated employment laws that effect El Paso employees. Yes, at-will employment remains the law of Texas, but there are so many different employment law statutes that provide protection to El Paso, Texas and Las Cruces, New Mexico employees that it is important to obtain good legal advice if you believe you are being treated unfairly at work and your job is in jeopardy or you have been terminated.