Like employees in most states, Georgia employees are subject to “at-will” employment, which means they can be terminated at any time for any reason. Although there are a number of federal laws that may override the at-will doctrine, Georgia law generally offers very few employee protections beyond what federal law provides.
The safeguards for Georgia employees who report unethical or illegal practices are no exception: while there are many federal laws that include anti-retaliation provisions to protect employees who report violations of the law, very few Georgia laws apply.
For example, the federal Occupational Safety & Health Act (OSHA) covers employees who report workplace safety violations, and the Sarbanes-Oxley Act (SOX) covers employees who report SEC violations. Unfortunately, Georgia whistleblower protection is generally limited to the following:
- Reporting fraud against government: In Georgia, a public employer (state or local government) who retaliates against an employee for reporting fraud, waste or abuse may be subject to suit. Recent legislation may also extend this protection to those reporting private employers who are defrauding state or local government.
- Reporting discrimination against disabled persons: In Georgia, an employee cannot be legally discharged for opposing employment practices that discriminate against disabled people. If an employer does retaliate, the employee can file suit within 180 days of the retaliatory action.
- Reporting Sex Discrimination: An employee who files a complaint alleging pay discrimination based on sex cannot legally be retaliated against for doing so and may file suit within a year of any retaliatory action.
Because so little protection is available to employees under Georgia law, employees who witness illegal or unethical practices by an employer may be understandably nervous about coming forward. The fact is, if you blow the whistle on your employer and you are not protected by any federal or state laws, you could face retaliation from your employer that may legally include discipline, demotion, reassignment, reduction of pay, denial of overtime, and even dismissal.
It can be challenging to determine whether you are protected for reporting employer misdeeds. If you are considering blowing the whistle or believe you were retaliated against for doing so, you should call an Atlanta employment lawyer to help you navigate this complicated process.