Can You Be Fired For Answering An “Anonymous” Work Survey in Texas?
Almost every workplace uses the so-called anonymous survey to query employees. Sometimes, if the company is having a bad month for whatever reason, managers will ask employees to honestly answer some questions in an attempt to get to the bottom of what's wrong.
To get the best result, the company will often go to great lengths to convince their employees that the answers they write in the survey won't be used against them in any way.
Is this the case?
In a viral TikTok video viewed over a half million times, an employment lawyer who goes by @lawyerpaige, real name Paige Sparks, tells viewers that there isn't much legal protection surrounding anonymous surveys at work.
“I don’t care what they tell you, those things are not anonymous,” Sparks says in her TikTok video linked below. . “…“I’m not saying they’re lying to you but there is no legal obligation for them to make sure that’s anonymous.”
Before we go further, it is important to understand the difference between an anonymous and confidential employee survey, although, for reasons we'll detail a bit later on, it doesn't matter in Texas.
Anonymous refers to a situation where the identity of the respondent isn't known by anyone doing the survey. Confidentiality refers to a scenario where the system administering the survey knows the identity of the respondent, but steps are taken to protect the identity of the respondents. The lengths that the system in this case will go to in protecting said respondents can be great or almost non-existent.
In either case, it might not make any difference.
In Texas, that is especially true. Here, the basic rule of Texas employment law is employment is at will. That means that absent a statute or an expressed employment contract, the employer can fire an employee for any legal, non-discriminatory reason. Even if they think you're annoying.
Likewise, employees can leave their job anytime they wish without being sued for any losses incurred in their absence.
In Texas, you cannot be fired for retribution for engaging in a "protected activity". Unfortunately, participating in a survey that the employer asserts is anonymous does not meet the definition of a protected activity in Texas.
According to the Texas Workforce Commission's website, protected activities include submitting, assisting with, or participating in the investigation of an employment discrimination complaint based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, age, or disability.
Lawyer Paige in the TikTok video is technically right. While it might feel good to "get it off your chest" in one of those so-called anonymous workplace surveys if you value your job, you probably shouldn't.
At the very least, it could make going to work very awkward and you might not even realize why. At worst, it can lead to the unemployment line.