How to Legally Terminate an Employee in Texas

The process of terminating an employee can be a challenging and complex task, fraught with a multitude of legal and emotional considerations. In the state of Texas, as in many other U.S. states, understanding the intricacies of employment law is crucial to navigating the waters of employee termination legally and ethically.

Here at The Galo Law Firm, we specialize in employment law and discrimination issues, helping businesses uphold their legal responsibilities while ensuring fair treatment of employees. We believe that a thorough understanding of Texas’ employment laws is a necessary foundation for all businesses.

If you need advice from a skilled labor law attorney regarding employment law, our team at The Galo Law Firm is ready to help. Call us today at 210-361-8043.

Understanding Employment Law in Texas

Texas, like many U.S. states, operates under the “at-will” employment doctrine. This means that unless a contract or an agreement states otherwise, both employers and employees can terminate the employment relationship at any time, for any reason, or even for no reason at all, provided it’s not an unlawful one.

However, at-will employment has important exceptions that employers should note. These exceptions include the prohibition of termination due to discriminatory reasons, retaliation, or in violation of specific public policies. For instance, you cannot terminate an employee based on race, color, religion, sex, or nationality, or because the employee exercised their rights under laws like those for workers’ compensation, or the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).

Additionally, you cannot dismiss an employee in retaliation for refusing to perform an illegal act, reporting illegal activities, or participating in an investigation into such activities. These exceptions to at-will employment not only form part of Texas state laws but are also incorporated into federal laws.

Understanding both Federal and Texas-specific employment laws is essential because these laws often overlap and interact. Federal laws, like the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), provide broader protections against employment discrimination.

Being well-versed in both spheres of law allows employers to navigate the complexities of the legal landscape effectively and safeguard their businesses from potential lawsuits. Remaining compliant with these laws is not merely a matter of legal obligation; it’s about fostering a fair and respectful workplace. The Galo Law Firm is well-equipped to guide employers through this intricate terrain, ensuring they fulfill their legal responsibilities while promoting an equitable working environment.

Recognizing Unlawful Termination in Texas

Unlawful termination, often referred to as wrongful termination, is the illegal dismissal of an employee in violation of federal and state laws.

Discriminatory Grounds

Examples of discriminatory grounds for termination include dismissing an employee based on their race, color, national origin, sex, disability, religion, age, or citizenship status. This violates both Texas law and federal law, specifically the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Americans with Disabilities Act, The Age Discrimination in Employment Act, and other related statutes.


Retaliation, another form of wrongful termination, takes place when an employer fires an employee for exercising their legal rights. For instance, if an employee filing a worker’s compensation claim or a sexual harassment complaint is dismissed because of their action, it may lead to a wrongful termination claim. Retaliating against an employee for fulfilling a civic duty, like jury duty, or participating in a labor union also falls under this category.

Refusal to Engage in an Illegal Act or Reporting Safety Violations

An employer also cannot use the at-will employment relationship as a cover to fire an employee for unlawful reasons. For example, if an employer terminates an employee for refusing to engage in an illegal act or for reporting safety violations, it might lead to a wrongful termination lawsuit. This is often referred to as the “illegal act exception” or “public policy exception” to the employment at will doctrine.

Consequences for Texas Wrongful Termination Cases

The consequences for employers found guilty of wrongful termination can be severe. Penalties may include:

  • Owing compensation to the wrongfully terminated employee for back pay, future pay, and even punitive damages in some cases.
  • You may have to provide job reinstatement.
  • Criminal liability.
  • Reputational damage.

Employers should always seek legal advice from a wrongful termination lawyer, like those at the The Galo Law Firm, before dismissing an employee when there’s a potential for a wrongful termination claim. With our extensive experience in employment law and understanding of the unique Texas laws, The Galo Law Firm can help you navigate the termination process in a legal and ethical manner. We can provide guidance on avoiding potential wrongful termination lawsuits and handle any arising claims professionally and efficiently.

Proper Procedure for Employee Termination

In order to legally terminate an employee in Texas, employers must follow certain procedures and practices.

Proper Documentation

One key aspect is proper documentation and record-keeping. All performance-related issues, policy violations, and any related disciplinary actions should be well-documented. This is critical to validate the lawful reason behind the termination in case an employee files a wrongful termination claim.

Professional Approach

When terminating an employee, the termination news should be delivered professionally and respectfully. It is recommended that employers have a private conversation with the employee, provide a clear explanation, and offer a written employment termination notice. If possible, a representative from human resources or another company leader should be present to witness the discussion.

Severance Packages

In terms of severance packages, while Texas law does not mandate them, many employers choose to offer them to help ease the transition for the terminated employee. Severance pay could be a week or two of salary, or more, depending on the length of employment and the circumstances of the dismissal. Employers may also continue to provide benefits like health insurance for a specific period. It’s important to mention that offering severance packages can sometimes act as a deterrent for employees considering filing wrongful termination lawsuits.

In exchange for the severance package, employers often ask the terminated employee to sign a release of claims. This is a legal document in which the employee agrees not to sue the employer for wrongful termination or related claims.

Creating a Fair and Transparent Termination Process

Creating a fair and transparent termination process is vital for preserving both the reputation of a business and its relationship with its employees. Clear policies, open communication, and impartial practices all contribute to a fair and just termination process.

Having clear policies in place that are consistently followed helps to avoid potential discriminatory or unfair practices. These policies should be outlined in an employee handbook and may include expectations about job performance, guidelines for conduct, and disciplinary procedures. They should also clearly state that the employment relationship is at-will (unless an employment contract or collective bargaining agreement states otherwise), meaning either party can end the employment relationship at any time, for a lawful reason.

Open communication channels are equally important. Employees should be aware of their performance expectations and given regular feedback. If performance or conduct issues arise, they should be addressed promptly and directly with the employee. This ongoing communication can prevent misunderstandings and help to ensure that a termination if it occurs, doesn’t come as a surprise.

To create a transparent termination process:

  • Document Everything – Keep a record of all employee interactions, performance reviews, and disciplinary actions taken. This can be invaluable in proving a termination was lawful if a wrongful termination claim arises.
  • Consistency is Key – Treat all employees consistently. Using the same process for every employee can help avoid claims of discrimination or favoritism.
  • Clear Communication – When termination is necessary, communicate clearly with the employee. Be honest about the reason for the termination, but avoid unnecessary details or debate.
  • Be Respectful – Termination is a difficult experience. Ensure the conversation is respectful and considerate. It’s often best to have this discussion in a private setting.
  • Consult with an Employment Attorney – Laws regarding termination can be complex. An employment attorney can help you navigate these laws and avoid potential legal pitfalls.

Navigating the complexities of the termination process can be challenging. The Galo Law Firm, with its expertise in employment law, can help employers create and implement fair and transparent termination policies and procedures, ensuring compliance with all relevant state and federal laws.

How to Legally Terminate an Employee in Texas FAQ

Wrongful termination refers to the unlawful dismissal of an employee. As an employer, you can prevent wrongful termination by ensuring that the reasons for dismissing an employee are fair and legal. You must abide by both state and federal laws, and be aware of any written employment contract with the employee that could stipulate specific termination procedures.

In Texas, employment is generally at-will, meaning an employee can be dismissed at any time and for any reason, as long as that reason isn’t illegal under state or federal law. However, employers need to comply with laws such as the Civil Rights Act, Age Discrimination in Employment Act, and Americans with Disabilities Act, among others. Always consult with your legal advisor to ensure you’re compliant.

Yes, if an employee believes they were terminated for illegal reasons, they may file a legal claim against the employer. Documenting the reasons for termination and following legal and fair procedures to mitigate such risks is critical.

If there’s a written employment contract, the terms outlined in that contract must be honored during the termination process. Any breach of these terms can lead to a wrongful termination claim. We recommend reviewing any contractual obligations before proceeding with a termination decision.

If an employee has filed a workers’ compensation claim, you cannot terminate them solely for that reason, as this would be considered retaliation and is against the law. However, if other valid reasons for termination are unrelated to the claim, and you can substantiate these reasons, you may proceed with the termination. Consulting with a trustworthy lawyer in these situations is highly recommended.

Working With Galo Law Firm

An employment law attorney plays a critical role in helping businesses navigate the complexities of the termination process. They offer invaluable guidance, help mitigate risks, and ensure compliance with all applicable laws. They can assist in drafting or reviewing employment contracts, employee handbooks, and termination notices. Furthermore, an employment attorney can provide advice on dealing with challenging situations such as employee pushback or wrongful termination claims.

At The Galo Law Firm, we are skilled in employment law, particularly in handling termination processes and wrongful termination cases. Our team of experienced labor law attorneys understands the intricate landscape of both federal and state laws, including those specific to Texas. We provide comprehensive advice to employers, ensuring that they are well-prepared for all aspects of the termination process, from the initial decision to the final paycheck.

Partnering with The Galo Law Firm can safeguard your business interests in multiple ways. Firstly, we help you maintain compliance with employment laws, thereby reducing the risk of costly lawsuits and potential damage to your company’s reputation. Secondly, we provide guidance on best practices for termination, helping to ensure a fair and respectful process that maintains positive relationships within your workforce. Finally, if a wrongful termination claim is filed, we offer robust defense strategies based on our extensive experience and deep understanding of employment law.

Remember, it’s not just about legal compliance. It’s about creating a respectful and fair working environment that protects your business and your team. The Galo Law Firm is ready to partner with you to achieve this.

Contact us today to discuss your needs at 210-361-8043.

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