If you settle a lawsuit for $3.3 million, it’s generally not a good idea to ask your co-workers and employer to pay the settlement. However, Texas State Attorney General Ken Paxton seems to lack this common sense and has been impeached, in part, for his failure to comprehend that asking other people to pay for your employment retaliation lawsuit is terrible optics.
In October 2020, seven of Paxton’s staff reported Paxton to the FBI after Paxton allegedly used his office to conduct a sweetheart real estate deal in exchange for kickbacks. The Department of Justice has not filed any charges over the real estate deals, but Paxton fired the staffers or placed them on leave. The other three resigned. The four staffers filed suit against Paxton for employment retaliation. Paxton settled the lawsuit for $3.3 million and then asked the Texas State Legislature to pay for his settlement.
However, a Texas State House of Representative Committee had already been investigating Paxton for about a year prior to the lawsuit. The Committee in charge of the investigation was expected to recommend impeachment to the full house. Paxton accused the House Speaker of being intoxicated while on duty. The Committee, made up of both Republicans and Democrats, unanimously recommended Paxton’s impeachment.
The full House voted 121-23 to impeach Paxton over twenty potential charges, including charges for bribery, obstruction of justice, and abuse of power. Paxton is suspended without pay pending trial in the state senate. The Texas State Legislature only meets every two years, so Paxton’s trial may not occur until 2025. Governor Abbott has appointed former state Secretary of State John Scott to serve as Acting Attorney General.
Angela Paxton, Paxton’s wife, is currently a state senator. She has not stated whether she will recuse herself from her husband’s trial. Some of the charges against Ken Paxton include allegations that Paxton had helped a woman on his staff he had an affair with obtain a job at a real estate firm Ken Paxton had been doing business with.
What Is Employment Retaliation?
Retaliation generally refers to any adverse employment action taken by an employer against an employee who has made a complaint regarding the employer. This includes, but is not limited to, termination, suspension, demotion, pay reduction, transfer to another work site, or any other change that would negatively impact the employee’s work situation. Employment retaliation is generally illegal across the United States under most states and federal law.
Employment retaliation requires causation. In other words, it is not enough that an employee made a complaint and then the employee was fired or demoted. The complaint must be the cause of the adverse action. Many employers realize this and will make up a reason to fire the employee, like claiming that the employee was late or their work product had become poor.
However, an employer should have consistent documentation of poor employee conduct or the accusations of poor employee performance will sound hallow. This is especially true if the employee is complaining that an employer is breaking a law.
Ken Paxton in particular has a pattern of retaliatory behavior. Prior to the staffer lawsuit, Paxton had filed a lawsuit seeking to overturn the 2020 elections and keep Donald Trump in power. When the Texas Bar Foundation filed an ethics complaint against Paxton for his conduct in the elections lawsuit, Paxton responded by calling them leftists and opening an investigation into the Bar Foundation for aiding and abetting illegal immigration. Even when the Texas House of Representatives impeached Paxton, he called members who voted for his impeachment liberals.
Paxton is a textbook example of a supervisor who does not tolerate any criticism of his actions and would “do something” about such criticisms. However, it is illegal to take adverse actions against employees who make complaints to law enforcement, because employee complaints are partly how the legal system enforces the law.
Should I Consult an Attorney for Help with an Employment Retaliation Lawsuit?
If you are facing employment retaliation, you should consult with an employment lawyer in your area. A skilled attorney can ensure you are aware of your rights, help gather relevant evidence, and represent you in court as needed.