We hope you never find yourself in a situation in which you need to report a violation of the law, but if you do, here’s what you should know.
Texas Whistleblower Act
Texas’ Whistleblower Act prohibits a state or local governmental entity (including a school district) from taking adverse employment-related action against an employee “who in good faith reports a violation of law by the employing governmental entity or another public employee to an appropriate law enforcement authority.”
In plain language, school district employees are protected from retaliation if, “in good faith,” they report a violation of a civil or criminal statute or a local ordinance.
- “Good Faith”: An employee reporting a violation of the law must believe the conduct is a violation and that belief must be considered reasonable.
- “Appropriate Law Enforcement Authority”: An employee should report a possible violation to a government entity that they believe is authorized to enforce the law allegedly violated or investigate and prosecute such a violation.
Reporting a violation of the law to your supervisor – even if the violation occurs at work – may not qualify as a report to an “appropriate law enforcement authority.”
Protecting Yourself as a Whistleblower
One important note: You have protection as a whistleblower for reporting possible violations of the law. But a 2006 Supreme Court decision means you may or may not be protected by the First Amendment for communicating other job-related complaints in the course of your duties.
You do have the right to blow the whistle on possible legal violations and to file grievances within your school district for other infringements on your rights.
If you believe your employer is retaliating against you as a whistleblower, you must initiate your district’s grievance procedure within 90 days. You need to follow your district’s grievance and appeal process, step by step. Be aware that your district’s policy may have deadlines sooner than that 90-day deadline.
The law also lists specific steps and deadlines before you can sue the employer seeking relief, so please seek assistance from your union and/or an attorney before considering a lawsuit.
Have a question about your rights? Contact a union expert about policies by downloading the Ask Texas AFT app for free.