Retaliation for Refusing to Commit an Illegal Act

Austin Retaliation for Refusing to Commit an Illegal Act Attorney

Serving Austin, Central Texas, and Surrounding Areas
Retaliation for Refusing to Commit an Illegal Act in Texas – “Sabine Pilot”

“Sabine Pilot” is the abbreviated name of a case decided by the Supreme Court of Texas in 1985, Sabine Pilot Serv. v. Hauck (Tex. 1985). In that case, the Supreme Court recognized a narrow exception to the general “at will” doctrine of employment in Texas, and found that an at-will employee may sue his/her employer if he/she is fired for refusing to commit an illegal act.

Since the Supreme Court’s decision in Sabine Pilot, Texas courts have made it clear that this exception to employment “at will” is an extremely small exception. For an employee to have rights under Sabine Pilot, his/her refusal to commit an illegal act must be the sole reason for termination. Furthermore, the illegal act that the employee was asked to commit must be subject to criminal penalties. Unfortunately, Sabine Pilot offers no protection for employees who report illegal activities of other employees (though other laws may offer protection), and most courts have found that employees who are fired for inquiring about the legality of an action are not protected.

An employee who wins a suit under the Sabine Pilot cause of action may be entitled to actual damages that include past lost wages and benefits (back pay), future lost wages and benefits (front pay), and damages for mental anguish. In addition, a prevailing plaintiff may be entitled to punitive damages, prejudgment interest, and court costs. Lastly, if the employee desires reinstatement and that is feasible, a court may order such for a prevailing plaintiff employee.

What to Do if Your Employer Terminates You For Refusing to Commit an Illegal Act

Contact an attorney immediately, and preferably an attorney who routinely represents employees in employment litigation. To preserve your rights under the law for this type of illegal employment action, you should act quickly, as Sabine Pilot claims are subject to a two-year statute of limitations. Lastly, take thorough notes regarding everything that is said or done to you surrounding your termination and keep all of your records related to your employment. These notes and records may prove invaluable in a later lawsuit.


If you feel you have been retaliated against for refusing to commit an illegal act and wish to speak to an Austin employment attorney at the Cook Law Firm, please submit a case review form.