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Fired for Refusing to Do an Illegal Act

Asking an employee to do something illegal puts them in an impossible position – they either have to break the law or defy their boss. If they refuse to do an illegal act (e.g., commit a crime, break the law, falsify numbers, fake income, recognize revenue early, delete or misreport discounts, illegally dump chemicals, or remove safety mechanisms), it could potentially cost them a promotion, a raise, or even their job. Workers who find themselves in this predicament may feel that it’s a lose-lose situation. The truth is that they may have more legal protections and options than they realize.

If you’ve been fired or are about to be fired for refusing to do an illegal act, you should speak with a Texas whistleblower attorney. You may be able to file a lawsuit seeking compensation for losses related to your termination.

Can I be fired for refusing to do something illegal?

Under both Texas state law and federal law, an employer is prohibited from firing an employee solely for refusing to commit an illegal act. That said, it still happens – and many workers don’t realize that if they’re wrongfully terminated for refusing to do something illegal, they may be able to seek compensation for lost wages and other damages.

What do I do if my boss asks me to do something illegal?

Even if you think your employer may fire you for refusing, you should never break the law just because your boss asked you to. In addition to rejecting their request, you may want to report them to the appropriate agency – for example, if your boss asked you to defraud the government, you could potentially blow the whistle on them by reporting them to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). However, we highly recommend consulting with your own attorney as soon as possible, ideally before making reports to anyone inside or outside your company.

Finally, you may want to contact an employment and civil rights attorney who can advise you on the best steps to take going forward. An attorney can tell you if you’re able to take legal action against your employer, and if so, how to build the strongest case possible.

What should I do if I was fired for refusing to commit an illegal act?

As noted above, the first thing you should do is speak to an experienced employment lawyer who can determine if your firing broke the law. If so, you could be owed compensation for back pay, loss of earning capacity, emotional anguish, and other damages.

You should also try to save and preserve any evidence that could help you prove you were fired for refusing to do something illegal. These materials might include:

What are some examples of illegal acts in the workplace?

These are some of the more common examples of illegal acts that employers ask their workers to commit:

Can you sue an employer for being unethical?

Maybe – it depends on whether or not their behavior has crossed the line from unethical or unpleasant to illegal. For example, it’s certainly unethical for a supervisor to steal credit for a subordinate’s work, but it’s not necessarily against the law. On the other hand, sexually harassing an employee is grounds for a lawsuit, as is discriminating against a worker because of their age, disability, gender, pregnancy status, or another protected trait; or billing the federal government (e.g., Medicare, Medicaid, TriCare) for services not provided or for the wrong services.

The best way to figure out if you can sue your employer for their unethical behavior is to consult with an employee rights attorney.

Can you sue for wrongful termination in Texas?

Yes. In Texas, as in the rest of the United States, workers are entitled to certain protections. Texas is an at-will state, which means employers can fire employees at will (for almost any reason) – but they’re still not allowed to fire workers for discriminatory reasons, for making a complaint or report of discrimination, for blowing the whistle on unlawful behavior under certain circumstances, or for refusing to commit criminal acts themselves. In cases like these, the employee who was let go may be able to sue their former employer for wrongful termination.

Texas has a very narrow common law wrongful termination protection called Sabine Pilot, named after the Texas Supreme Court case Sabine Pilot Service v. Hauck, which prohibits employers from firing employers for the sole reason of the worker’s refusal to perform an illegal act. Additionally, federal laws like the NDAA protect Texas-based employees, including remote workers, who report fraud, waste, or abuse related to federal contracts or grants. Also, Texas workers who report to management or headquarters in other states like New York and California may be protected by robust whistleblower protections under state laws in those venues.

Between Texas law, federal law, and the laws of other states, Texas workers can often find protection against being fired for doing something illegal.

How much compensation can I get from a wrongful termination case?

The money you can receive from a wrongful termination settlement depends on the statutes your employer violated, among other factors. In most cases, there are three main types of damages plaintiffs can recover:

Why should I contact Kaplan Law Firm?

Kaplan Law Firm is an employment law and civil rights firm that’s been proudly serving Texans since 2015. Founded by Austin Kaplan in Austin, Texas, our firm has represented hundreds of clients in a wide range of employment and civil rights matters, including claims for wrongful termination, retaliation, discrimination, breach of contract, and wage and hour violations.

We’ve recovered millions of dollars for our clients; received dozens of five-star reviews on Google and Avvo; and our attorneys have been featured in The New York Times, The Washington Post, Bloomberg, Fast Company, and on CNN.

Reach out today for a free, confidential case review so we can help you determine if you’re owed compensation.

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Client Testimonials

I truly enjoyed working with Austin Kaplan of Kaplan Law Firm.  Mr. Kaplan listened to my concerns, reviewed my employment agreement in detail, and then provided some good, solid feedback on what my best options were.  In addition, he went above and beyond in researching additional information even after our meeting.  I would definitely recommend Mr. Kaplan for legal advice concerning employment related matters.

— Matt, Financial Services Non-Compete and Employment Agreement Advice

Great Law Firm. Really professional.

— Marcello P.

If you have a tough unpaid overtime case like I did, I recommend hiring Kaplan Law Firm.  Austin worked closely with me throughout my case to make sure I knew what to expect, and to make sure we were both fully prepared.  Austin made sure I was always in the driver’s seat.  He was always professional and dedicated to my case.  We set goals together at the beginning of the case, and by the end, he made sure each of them were met.  If you need a lawyer for a tough case, I recommend Kaplan Law Firm.

— A.E., Unpaid Overtime (FLSA)

I would like to personally thank Austin and his staff in handling my first time attorney experience. Him and his staff were very polite and very professional. He really took the time to explain everything which made me feel like he really cared. He responded to every email that I had questions and concerns and I got answers. Thankful I had Austin in my corner. Thank you once again for doing an amazing job. I would highly recommend Austin and his team.

— Jenevieve S.

It was an absolute pleasure working with Austin Kaplan and his staff.  They are very personable, easily available for questions and procedures, incredibly knowledgeable, and they made a terrible employment experience easy to deal with.  I cannot say enough great things about the Kaplan Law Firm.

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I had the most positive experience working with Austin Kaplan. He was extremely knowledgeable and took care of us from start to finish. He will go above and beyond making sure you understand all the aspects of your case. Extremely professional, well versed in employment law, and overall excellent attorney! Highly recommend him!

— Clint H.

Kaplan law firm was recommended to me by an attorney friend based on their professionalism and dedication to detail – I wasn’t disappointed, the recommendation was the best I could hope for.

I worked with Mr. Kaplan directly, and he made sure that he understood all the details of my case, he communicated extremely well during the duration of our engagement and got me a very favorable outcome during a stressful time of my career. When you go through an employment dispute you want a good and competent lawyer on your side, and I felt represented extremely well by Mr. Kaplan.

In addition to his representation in my labor dispute Kaplan also provided very good professional advice and I would ask him to represent me again in any labor dispute I might have in the future.

— Otmar F.

Austin Kaplan was indeed, very helpful in resolving a dispute I had with a restaurant, and his team helped as well to connect the dots in order to make this procedure an easy-going succession of discussions with the other party.  From our first meeting, I knew Austin was a trustworthy man who carefully listened and guided me through the steps – a great lawyer who chooses just causes.  Justice was served.

— Sam, Unpaid Wages

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