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Earlier this month, seven aides working for the office of Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton signed a letter accusing Paxton of corruption and accepting bribes. Now two of the six aides have been fired, with another two allegedly being placed on administrative leave. What is whistleblower retaliation, and what does this mean for the AG?
Paxton is no stranger to controversy, having been previously charged with felony securities fraud. Though details are scarce, it is believed that the current allegations of bribery and illegal actions brought by the aides are related to Paxton's dealings with real estate developer Nate Paul, who has also donated to Paxton's campaign.
Several other Texas officials have recently returned donations received from Paul, who has been under federal investigation since at least 2019. The AG denies taking any illegal action and has stated that he does not intend to resign.
Countries across the world have laws protecting whistleblowers like Paxton's employees, people who expose behind-the-scenes wrongdoing of corporations, governments, and more.
Whistleblowers are often notable for exposing major scandals. Watergate, the Pentagon Papers, the Enron scandal, and WikiLeaks are all notable whistleblowing cases. They can keep organizations accountable for wrongdoing, but bringing illegal practices to light can make whistleblowers unpopular with their bosses.
Federal laws like the Whistleblower Protection Act make it illegal for employers to retaliate against whistleblowers by firing them. Many states also have their own whistleblower protection statutes, including Texas, where Paxton and the aides work as employees of the state.
Texas whistleblower law prevents employers from suspending or terminating the employment of employees who claim that their bosses or fellow employees have violated the law. Paxton's office's treatment of the aides may be illegal under this law, regardless of whether the aides' claims are found to be true.
Until the Paxton investigation concludes, it is difficult to say what the repercussions against him or his office will be.
If you or someone you know has been wrongfully terminated after whistleblowing, a lawyer can help you navigate your options.