Texas Supreme Court Defines “Law” for Purposes of the Whistleblower Act

A claim under the Texas “Whistleblower Act” arises when an employee is terminated or disciplined after alleging a violation of “law” to an appropriate party.  The Act allows such an employee to file suit alleging that he or she was terminated for reporting a violation of law, rather than for a legitimate reason.

On June 14, in University of Houston v Barth, the Texas Supreme Court reviewed the issue of whether a “law” includes a “rule adopted under a statute or ordinance.”    The court concluded that, in addition to a report of a violation of a state law, a claim could be based on an ordinance or personnel policy adopted by ordinance.  

Each city should consult with legal counsel to review its ordinances and policies to determine whether, among other things, its personnel policy was adopted by ordinance, and to determine whether any changes could help avoid a Whistleblower lawsuit. 

Please contact Laura Mueller at the Texas Municipal League legal department at laura@tml.org or 512-231-7400 with questions.

TML member cities may use the material herein for any purpose.  No other person or entity may reproduce, duplicate, or distribute any part  of this document without the written authorization of the Texas Municipal League.

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