Michele Burch, who was working as a paralegal for Steidley & Elsom, LLC in Houston, Texas, alleges she was wrongfully terminated by the firm for refusing to send what she qualified as a "fraudulent invoice" to an "unsuspecting purchaser."
According to the petition that she filed in the 127th District Court in Houston, her supervising attorney directed her to "undo" the first $12,500 invoice, that had already been sent to the client, and to re-issue an invoice "in excess of $45,000.00 for purported legal fees and expenses."
After she refused to prepare the new invoice, Ms. Burch claims that her supervising attorney "yelled" at her "and lost control".
This incident took place on May 4, 2012. When she returned to work on May 7, she alleges that she was locked out of her computer and she realized that she was no longer employed.
Ms. Burch claims that she was wrongfully terminated and that she could have been subject to criminal prosecution under Chapter 15, 31 and/or 32 of the Texas Penal Code and Title 18 of the U.S. Code if she had complied with her supervisor's instructions.
Her claim is based on the 1985's Sabine Pilot Service Inc. v. Hauck decision by the Texas Supreme Court that recognized an exception to the at-will-employment doctrine when a company fires an employee for refusing to commit an illegal act.
Mrs. Burch seeks back pay, front pay up to $110,000, and $330,000 in punitive damages.
For more information:
BURCH, MICHELE vs. STEIDLEY + ELSOM LLC, Case number 20, 1229703 – 7, 127th District Court, Harris County, Tx.