Texas law only recognizes a whistleblowing cause of action for public employees that, in good faith, report violations of law to an appropriate law enforcement authority. In two cases reported last month, the Supreme Court of Texas clarified that internal reports of violations of law, even if made in good faith, to officials having purely internal authority to regulate the employer’s own compliance with the law, as opposed to the authority to enforce, investigate or prosecute violations of law against third parties, do not qualify as protected whistleblowing reports.
In UTSWMC v. Gentilello, the plaintiff claimed that he was terminated for complaining to management that trauma residents at Parkland Hospital (in Dallas) were treating and operating on patients without the supervision of an attending physicians in violation of Medicare and Medicaid requirements. In TAMUK v. Moreno, the plaintiff claimed that she was terminated because she reported to the TAMUK president that her supervisor’s daughter was receiving in-state tuition in violation of state law.
In both cases, the individuals to whom the plaintiffs reported only had authority to oversee the employer’s (and its employees) own compliance with various laws and regulations. This authority, the Court held, did not amount to the power to regulate and enforce the law. A report is only a protected whistleblowing report where it is made to an entity that has the “authority to enforce, investigate, or prosecute violations of law against third parties outside of the entity itself, of must have authority to promulgate regulations governing the conduct of such third parties.”
You can download Texas A&M University –Kingsville v. Moreno here.
You can also download University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas v. Gentillo here.
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