In Georgia, “wrongful termination” is misleading. George is an “at-will” state which means that an employer can terminate an employee for any reason or for no reason. But an employer cannot fire an employee if:
- The termination is based on unlawful discrimination or violates an employee rights law
- There is a contract stating that an employee cannot be terminated without just cause for a specific period of time
If an employee believes they were unlawfully terminated, they will need to show that the termination fell under these certain categories that include discrimination, retaliation, sexual harassment, hostile work environment, and interference with FMLA rights.
To successfully bring an unlawful termination claim, an employee needs to prove the reason the employer gave them for the termination as false. An employee should ask their employer why they were terminated and take notes. If an employer refuses to discuss, more information is usually gathered when an employee files for unemployment. An employee should keep copies of awards, accolades, and positive feedback they have received. A detailed timeline can also be helpful with dates, times, locations, and witnesses.
Discrimination and retaliation claims
Discrimination and retaliation claims are usually proved by direct evidence or comparative evidence. Direct evidence would include an admission by the employer that the termination was based upon the employee’s age, disability, race, gender, etc. or for engaging in a legally protected activity. Comparative evidence may involve a comparison between similar employees who were treated more fairly for the same alleged misconduct or performance challenge.
A legal professional who is skilled in employment law can be a good resource for a terminated employee. They can take the time necessary to review a termination and help the employee understand what their next legal steps may be.