Hospital workers and employees of other patient care facilities have some of the most difficult jobs out there. The enormous amount of stress, pressure, and difficulty in performing these vital jobs has only been made worse this past year by the global pandemic that has swept across this nation. Given the huge amount of responsibility and the sheer importance of the jobs carried out by hospital workers, it is now more important than ever that COVID-19 safety procedures be followed. This is only possible if workers are allowed to freely report violations of COVID-19 safety procedures. Luckily, Texas law agrees. In this article I will discuss the very basics of the Texas Health and Safety Code and how it may be able to help you create a safer working environment. 

Under the Texas Health and Safety Code, employees of hospitals, mental health facilities, and treatment facilities are protected from retaliation by their employers if they make a report of a violation of law, which includes a violation of the code itself, a rule adopted by the code, or a rule of another agency. Moreover, if a time gap of less than 60 days is between when the report is made and an adverse action, which can be a termination, suspension, or a demotion, takes place, the law states that there is a rebuttable presumption that the adverse action took place because of the report.

Let’s put forth an example. On January 1, 2021, a hospital employee witnesses a violation of several COVID-19 related rules at their private hospital. That same day they report these violations to their supervisor. The supervisor point blank tells the employee that they are not to tell anyone else, and they should just forget what they saw. Knowing that the violation could put people at risk, the employee goes to the state regulatory agency in charge of enforcing these rules on January 2, 2021 and files a report. After the supervisor is made aware of the report, everything changed. The employee’s supervisor then begins to make statements towards the employee telling them that they have made a grave mistake for making that report. Then on February 2, 2021, without having been given a final warning, that employee is unceremoniously terminated without any stated reason. 

In the above given hypothetical, it appears that the hospital employee may have a claim against the hospital for a violation of the Texas Health and Safety Code. This is precisely the type of situation that the Texas Health and Safety Code was meant to prevent. As prescribed under the statute, that employee, if successful, would be entitled to reinstatement to their prior position, compensation for lost wages, and payment for any lost fringe benefits or reinstatement of seniority rights lost as a result of the illegal termination. In other words, the law is designed to help get employees back to where they were had the illegal action not occurred. 

But the time to act under this particular cause of action is short. One must act quickly. Under the statute employees have only 180 days after the violation occurs to file suit. A failure to do so, would result in the cause of action expiring. 

Unfortunately, cases for these types of violations are not always crystal clear. Employers go about retaliating against their employees in much more nefarious manners that make it much more difficult to prove. Given that the statute of limitations is only 180 days, it is of the utmost importance to act swiftly. But more important than acting swiftly, it is imperative to seek out an attorney that specializes in employment law so that you can get the information that you need. At Wiley Walsh, P.C., we can fight on your behalf with the legal expertise these types of cases demand. If you feel like you have been retaliated against feel free to contact us to make an appointment with one of our attorneys. 

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Photo of Jairo N. Castellanos Jairo N. Castellanos

We asked Jairo N. Castellanos, an experienced Trial Attorney in the Austin office of Rob Wiley, P.C., to impart his candid answers to a range of questions. After reading, you will be more more informed on the well-respected reputation that Mr. Castellanos

We asked Jairo N. Castellanos, an experienced Trial Attorney in the Austin office of Rob Wiley, P.C., to impart his candid answers to a range of questions. After reading, you will be more more informed on the well-respected reputation that Mr. Castellanos carries.

1. Why did you start practicing labor and employment law?

I think labor and employment law is a fascinating part of the law that impacts everyone. Most people spend nearly as much time at work as they do with their family.

2. Who is your favorite Supreme Court Justice?

My favorite sitting justice is Justice Sonia Sotomayor.

3. What skills do you value as an employment attorney?

I think an important skill to have as an employment attorney is the ability to tell people’s stories. It is important to be able to effectively convey entirety of the case beyond the legal aspects of it.

4. What do you do when you’re not practicing law?

I like to read fiction and spend time with my daughter.

5. What’s your favorite legal movie

That is a toss-up between A Civil Action and My Cousin Vinny.

6. What’s your favorite legal TV show

Always Sunny in Philadelphia when they are discussing bird law.

7. Have you ever learned something from one of your clients?

I’ve learned that there is no one size fits all solution to dealing with issues. Much like there is no one size fits all way of approaching a problem.

8. If you could argue any case in history, what would it be?

Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka.

9. What do you most want your clients to know about you?

That in me they can find someone that will fight his hardest for them regardless of the outcome.

10. Who’s your favorite judge?

Former Chief Justice John Marshall

Jairo N. Castellanos is a Trial Attorney in the Austin office of Rob Wiley, P.C.  He graduated from The University of Nevada in Las Vegas with a bachelor’s degree in 2009.  Mr. Castellanos then graduated from The University of Texas School of Law in 2015. Mr. Castellanos is fluent in English and Spanish.