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Texas whistleblower wins settlement for wrongful discharge

A Texas man who worked for the Port Arthur Housing Authority recently received a pre-trial settlement as a result of his wrongful discharge suit. The suit was filed in response to his termination and claimed that the wrongful discharge was in retaliation for having acted as a whistleblower. The man, whose position was that of director of property services for the 10 years prior to his termination, had made accusations of wrongdoing within the Housing Authority to the Office of Inspector General.

The wrongful discharge suit was filed against the Housing Authority in October 2012. Members of the housing authority staff and its Executive Director were alleged to have been involved in illegal activities that prompted the firing. The Housing Authority Executive Director claimed that no illegal activities have taken place within the organization and that the Office of Inspector General had previously conducted satisfactory audits in both January and June of 2011.

As stated by the Executive Director, the decision to settle the lawsuit was based on the Housing Authority's wish to avoid investing time and money into what might turn out to be a prolonged litigation process. The Executive Director also cited the distraction and uncertainty of continued legal proceedings as a factor in the decision to settle the wrongful discharge suit in a timely manner. The Housing Authority's Commissioner was in agreement with the decision and described it as the best course of action.

Although Texas is an at-will employment state that requires no advance notice or explanation for a termination, certain employment terminations can still qualify as a wrongful discharge. One of those conditions is if the firing can be shown to be the result of an employee having reported suspected wrongdoing to the proper authorities. If this is the case, the firing may fall under the jurisdiction of one or more of the federal whistleblower statutes.

Source: panews.com, "PA Housing Authority settles whistleblower suit," Sherry Koonce, June 14, 2013

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