Texas is an at-will employment state. This means that, in general, employees and employers can choose to end employment relationships at any time, as long as the termination does not violate a contract or statute. Factors that may make firing an employee illegal include things like discrimination, harassment and retaliation.
In an interesting case that is emerging in central Texas, a group of former sheriff's deputies are suing McClennan County and the county's sheriff arguing that they were fired due to their political views. The six former sheriff's deputies say that their First Amendment rights were violated when their jobs were terminated due to their support of a candidate who was running against the current sheriff.
The lawsuit was filed in federal court this week, stating that the deputies were fired in political retaliation and that their right to free speech was denied solely because the deputies openly campaigned for the sheriff's primary opponent.
According to the lawsuit, the men had a combined 114 years of law enforcement experience and they had all received exceptional employment reviews.
A news article regarding the lawsuit does not state what the plaintiffs are requesting in the lawsuit. It does explain that the former deputies have sustained damages due to the lost wages and benefits. It says they have also suffered damage to their reputations, making it difficult to find work in the community.
It will be interesting to watch this lawsuit develop. Constitutional rights are rarely at issue in employment law complaints. More often, violations of Texas state employment laws and federal employment statutes are alleged.
This case should remind workers here in Houston that not only do they have the right to work in an environment free of certain types of discrimination and harassment, but that they also have Constitutional rights that cannot be infringed upon. When workers feel that their rights are being violated, they may benefit from seeking legal recourse.
Source: kwtx.com, "Central Texas County And New Sheriff Named In Federal Lawsuit," Jan. 10, 2013
- To learn more about your workplace rights here in Houston, please visit our employment law firm's Discrimination page.