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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. Of course, selecting the right criminal defence lawyer isn’t just about legal expertise. It also includes finding an attorney who understands the specifics of the local legal system. Therefore, it’s worth considering the expert team at New Jersey Criminal Law Attorney, the Hudson County specialists, who can guide you through the complexities of New Jersey law.

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.

How Can We Help?

Client Testimonials

I reached out to Austin in hopes he could offer guidance with a difficult employment situation which had me feeling helpless and depleted. In my initial meeting with Austin, he offered insight into employment law confirming my suspicions that my employer was not acting in compliance with legal expectations.

Austin was thorough, compassionate, and knowledgeable as he explained legal definitions and the implications associated with various potential actions I might engage. Through the course of the next several weeks as Austin and I worked together, he displayed rich creativity and a deep understanding of the art of both law and negations while always being open to collaborative discussion. Having Austin on my team offered me the support I needed to feel empowered and take action and, ultimately, led me to a resolution which feels both fair and absolute. I have already recommended Austin to several personal friends/colleagues and will continue to voice my support for Austin and his team.

— S.L., Severance Negotiation, Sexual Harassment, Retaliation

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.

— Shelby L.

Austin was impressive and able to accomplish the results in my case. Like me, he is goal oriented, and his approach to my case was not only efficient but extremely effective. If you are looking for a lawyer that will provide personalized attention and help you accomplish your goals efficiently, I highly recommend Austin.

— Richard, Unpaid Overtime (FLSA) / Retaliation

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.

Mr. Kaplan is highly professional and provided me with a great deal of confidence regarding my employment issue.  I highly recommend him.

— Tim K.

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.

Austin helped out my dad on a employment matter. Within a short time Austin got results and my dad was very happy with the outcome. Austin knows what he is doing I couldn’t recommend him any more.

— Pedro V.

I am a female C-level executive in technology.  I was in a contract dispute with my former employer and needed assistance to recover compensation and benefits that were withheld.  Austin did a great job explaining the law, laying out all my options, understanding my goals, and fighting to achieve them.  The Firm kept me fully informed and up-to-date, and there was always someone available when I needed them.  I highly recommend this firm.

— P.M., Executive Severance

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