Here in the state of Texas, employers all generally offer “at-will” positions. What this means is that an employee can be terminated from any job and any position for no reason at all. This also means that an employee can leave their job without giving any explanation to their employers as well. The problem is that employers sometimes abuse this law, trying to cover their real reasons for termination. This creates a situation of wrongful termination.
What is Considered Wrongful Termination in Texas
Under Texas state law, there are some common law exceptions and court-ruling exceptions to at will employment. According to the Texas Workforce Commission, it may be considered a wrongful termination if you:
- Discharge a worker because he or she refused to commit a criminal offense. Likewise, you cannot dismiss an employee if doing so would violate the express employment agreement you have with that worker.
- Based on a court ruling, you cannot suddenly terminate employees for violating policies that you have a history of not enforcing.
When employers discriminate against employees and wrongfully misuse the “at-will” clause, their employees could be entitled to compensation.
There are three primary sources of wrongful termination or dismissal in the state of Texas:
- Discrimination – Federal rules have established that there are certain classes which are protected and cannot be considered in terms of hiring, employing, or terminating someone. These federally safeguarded classes include religion, age, gender, and ethnicity.
- Harassment – If you have been harassed, whether sexually or otherwise, you are legally protected from being terminated. Even if you have technically self-resigned as opposed to being actually terminated, you can still seek justice because you were pressured to quit on account of facing prolonged harassment.
- Retaliation – Perhaps you have noticed a violation or example of illegal activity conducted by your supervisors or colleagues. If you reported this problem and then were terminated, or even were forced to lose benefits or promotions, this is an example of retaliation. I can help prove that you have suffered unjust retaliation.
What to Do if You are Terminated
File for Unemployment Benefits
Regardless of the reason you were fired, laid off or separated from your job, you should consider filing for unemployment.
- Every employer in the State of Texas pays taxes into the unemployment fund. It is a benefit for all employees unless you are disqualified for benefits.
- To file for benefits online go to: https://www.twc.texas.gov/jobseekers/unemployment-benefits-services
Information You Need to Apply
In order to apply for unemployment, you will need:
- Your last employer’s business name, address, and phone number
- First and last dates (month, day, and year) you worked for your last employer.
- Number of hours worked and pay rate if you worked the week you apply for benefits (Sunday through Saturday)
- Information about the normal wage for the job you are seeking
- Alien Registration number (if not a U.S. citizen)
Collecting Unemployment Benefits
You should be able to collect unemployment benefits if you:
- Had a medically documented illness that prevented you from working.
- Quit to move with your spouse.
- Have a documented case of sexual assault, family violence, or stalking.
- Were fired without work-related misconduct. Examples of misconduct include, but are not limited to, a violation of company policy; violation of law; neglect or mismanagement of your position; or failure to perform your work acceptably if you are capable. Generally the company must have counselled you regarding any misconduct before you are fired to qualify as work-related misconduct unless you are guilty of theft, work-place violence or other obvious misconduct.
- Texas Workforce Commission Unemployment Benefits Handbook: https://www.twc.texas.gov/files/jobseekers/unemployment-benefits-handbook-twc.pdf
Secure Your Health Insurance Benefits
- COBRA is a Federal law that provides employees of companies with 20 or more employees the opportunity to continue their company sponsored health insurance for up to 36 months following the date of the employee’s separation of employment.
- If your company employs less than 20 employees, but provided a health insurance benefit, Texas law requires that the company provide you the opportunity to continue your health insurance. If you have exhausted your COBRA coverage, you may continue coverage for six additional months following any period of coverage continuation under COBRA.
- COBRA continuation coverage will ensure you have health coverage until the coverage through your Marketplace plan begins.
- To exhaust COBRA continuation coverage, you or your dependent must receive the maximum period of continuation coverage available without early termination.
- Keep in mind if you choose to terminate your COBRA continuation coverage early with no special enrollment opportunity at that time, you generally will have to wait to enroll in other coverage until the next open enrollment period for the new group health plan or the Marketplace.
- To Apply: https://www.tdi.texas.gov/hmo/documents/enrolleecobra.pdf
Affordable Care Act (ACA)
- If you have lost your job for any reason and you were insured under a company sponsored health insurance plan, the company must give you the opportunity to continue your health insurance coverage.
- If you lose your health insurance because of a separation of employment you are eligible to apply for health insurance through the Affordable Care Act (ACA) or “Obamacare.”
Applying for Marketplace
- The Marketplace offers "one-stop shopping" to find and compare private health insurance options.
- COBRA coverage will not limit your eligibility for Marketplace coverage or tax credit.
- You can apply for Marketplace coverage at HealthCare.gov or by calling 1-800-318- 2596 (TTY 1-855-889-4325).
- To qualify for special enrollment in a Marketplace plan, you must do so within 60 days before or 60 days after losing your coverage.
- If you need health coverage in the time between losing your job-based coverage and beginning coverage through the Marketplace (for example, if you or a family member needs medical care), you may wish to elect COBRA coverage from your former employer's plan.
- Through the Marketplace you can also learn if you qualify for Medicaid.
- You can apply for and enroll in Medicaid any time of year.
- If you qualify, your coverage begins immediately. Visit HealthCare.gov or call 1-800-318-2596 (TTY 1-855-889-4325) for more information or to apply for these programs.
- You can also apply for Medicaid by contacting your state Medicaid office.
Apply for Other Employment
- Most people do not have the ability to not work for an extended period of time.
- Therefore, you will be applying for a new job. One of the questions that comes up frequently is: What do I say about my termination? How to Handle the Gap in your Employment in Interviews is a helpful video from Indeed.com:https://www.indeed.com/career-advice/interviewing/how-to-explain-employment-gaps
How The Hommel Law Firm Can Help
When you have the Hommel Law Firm at your side, you can count on me to offer my full services to defend your rights. The Hommel Law Firm can obtain crucial documents and papers needed to file your claim, while carefully investigating all the circumstances. As a Tyler wrongful termination lawyer, I can also act as a liaison between you and your employer, settling challenges and negotiating offers for you.
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