Texas is an at-will employment state. This means that, absent an employment contract, either the employee or the employer can terminate the employment relationship at any time and for any reason–as long as the reason for termination does not violate state or federal employment statues, such as anti-discrimination laws.
There has been a lot in the news this week about the Houston Police Department suspending a police sergeant for allegedly posting nude photos of herself on a modeling website. The department reportedly may fire the 20-year Houston police veteran, but for now internal affairs is investigating the incident.
Many people might think that if the sergeant was involved with the online modeling website on her own time, her employer should not be able to dismiss her for this action. However, it has been reported that the department has a policy stating that officers have to disclose other jobs they have outside of the department, and this woman may have been a paid model. It is not known whether she disclosed this.
Furthermore, department policies also state that employees must be professional at all times and not engage in activities that would bring disrespect to the employee or department.
As a police officer, the terms of this woman’s employment are likely covered by an employment contract between the department and her union.
This is a complex employment law issue and it remains to be seen whether the department will terminate her employment, and if so, whether she will choose to dispute this. When Texas residents are fired for questionable reasons, they may want to seek legal counsel to learn whether their employer was acting within the bounds of at-will employment, or whether they violated any laws.
Source: NY Daily News, “Houston police sergeant faces dismissal over posting nude photos of herself online,” Victoria Cavaliere, Oct. 3, 2012
- Our law firm handles employment disputes. To learn more about our practice, please visit our Houston Employment Law page.