It happens more often than people like to think. The boss calls an employee into her office for a meeting. During the meeting, she informs the employee that he's fired. The employee is given no explanation. His protests that he is doing good work and that he has no disciplinary problems are ignored. Can the employer do this? Typically, yes because of at will employment laws.
What are the At Will Employment Laws in Georgia?
In Georgia, most workers are usually regarded as employees "at will." This means that the employee works at the will of the employer and the employer can fire the worker at any time, for any reason (just about), and without any notice. Essentially, a worker can be terminated for "a good reason, a bad reason, or for no reason at all."
Most Worker Protection Comes from Federal Law
There are still some limited protections for Georgia employees, but most of them come from federal rather than state law. Some workers have additional protections including those who are in unions or who are in employment contracts.
For example, federal law forbids discrimination in a person's employment on the basis of race, sex, age, religion, national origin and disability. If a worker thinks he or she was terminated for one of these illegal reasons, and if that belief is eventually upheld in court or otherwise, the fired employee may be able to recover compensation or, in some instances, even get his or her job back.
Other federal laws protect rights to safety on the job, wage and hour payments, employee benefit plans, family and medical leave, and union activity. In addition, public (government) employees have rights under the Constitution and may be able to appeal adverse employment actions through a grievance system.
Can I Be Fired for Filing a Grievance or Charge of Discrimination?
No, you also can't be terminated because you opposed unlawful employment practices (such as discrimination or retaliation). For example, if you filed an internal grievance or complaint, a charge of discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), or a lawsuit, or if you prepared a statement or testified in support of somebody who did.
Am I Protected if I Am in a Contract Employment Situation?
Under Georgia state law, a worker who has a written contract for a definite length of time (two years, for example), may be able to file a lawsuit for breach of contract if the worker is fired.
Employment laws in Georgia are constantly changing. Consider speaking to a Georgia employment law attorney if you have questions about your specific situation.
Have Specific Questions About At Will Employment in Georgia? Ask an Attorney
If you have concerns about signing an at-will agreement, suspect that you fit into an exception, or just need clarification about the law, you should talk to an experienced employment attorney in Georgia. An attorney can not only explain how the state's employment laws apply to you, but also provide personalized legal advice on how to proceed.
Contact a qualified attorney.