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When is Terminating an Employee Illegal?

Posted by B&F System Admin | Jan 02, 2019

If you are an at-will employee, your employer can fire you at any time, for any reason. That is, unless the “reason” you are fired is illegal. The law prohibits employers from firing employees based on certain justifications or reasons.

Illegal Reasons for Firing an Employee:

Discrimination - Employers cannot legally fire an employee based on that employee's race, gender, disability, national origin, religion, or age,  for example. Federal law also prohibits most employers from firing an employee for being pregnant, giving birth to a baby or for having a medical condition related to either situation.

Retaliation – Employers cannot legally fire an employee as a punishment for engaging in legally protected activities. Retaliation can come in different forms (e.g., demotion, discipline, pay decrease), but in many cases, the retaliation comes in the form of termination.

Alien Status – As long as an employee is legally eligible to work in the U.S., employers may not legally use the employee's alien status as a reason for termination (see the federal Immigration Reform and Control Act or IRCA).

OSHA Violation Complaints – OSHA, or the federal Occupational Safety and Health Act, prohibits employers from firing employees for complaining about unsafe work conditions in violation of state or federal health standards.

Public Policy Violations –In certain states, employers may not legally terminate an employee if doing so violates public policy principles, or what most people would consider morally or ethically wrong. The definition of public policy principles leaves this aspect of wrongful termination open to interpretation. For a general idea of what public policy violation may look like in Georgia, consider the following examples. An employee cannot legally be fired for refusing to engage in criminal activity. An employee cannot be fired for obeying the law, such as responding to a subpoena for jury duty.

If you are afraid that you are the victim of wrongful termination, or if you need to talk to an experienced Atlanta employment law attorney about discrimination or retaliation in the workplace, please get in touch with Barrett & Farahany today.

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When you reach out to us, you will receive a complimentary consultation with one of our skilled Atlanta employment attorneys. During our initial consultation with you, we can help you to better understand your rights and will work with you to determine what course of action is in your best interest. We take great pride in providing assistance based on years of experience negotiating and litigating employment matters to protect employee interests. If you find yourself in need of dedicated legal representation, we are prepared to advocate on your behalf – our goal is always to protect employee victims of harassment, discrimination, and retaliation.