You need your job, so getting fired for no reason may be a confusing and enraging experience, especially if you did not see it coming at all. Tennessee is an employment-at-will state, which means that employers can often fire without an explanation for the employee. Nonetheless, an employer cannot legally dismiss an employee under specific circumstances.
Employment at will
In general, employers in Tennessee can fire their employees at any time and for any reason. However, there are some exceptions to that rule. An employer cannot fire you because of your race, sex, age, religion, color, disability or national origin. If they did, they would be discriminating against you, which is illegal. Also, your employer cannot terminate you for any of the following reasons:
- For being called to the military service
- For filing a discrimination complaint against them
- For taking time to vote in elections
- For participating in a legal investigation
- For exercising your right of association
- For taking family or medical leave
- For filing a worker’s compensation claim
- For complying with jury duty
You can also sue your employer if the termination goes against the terms of the contract you had with them. If you suspect your employer fired you to discriminate against you or punish you for a complaint you made, you can hold them responsible for their mistake with the Tennessee Human Rights Commission (THRC) or the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Either commission can file a lawsuit against your employer if they find proof of discrimination or retaliation.
Filing a wrongful termination lawsuit
For discrimination and retaliation cases, you must go to one commission first to be able to file a lawsuit against your employer. If you believe they fired you because of any of the other unlawful reasons, you can file a wrongful termination claim against them. If you win the suit, your employer will have to compensate you for your losses unless they prove they had a legitimate reason to fire you.
Your rightful compensation
Tennessee is an employment-at-will state, but that does not mean employers can fire their employees for discriminatory purposes. By filing a complaint or lawsuit against your employer, you can recover any wages or benefits you may have lost due to their noncompliance with the law. You could also get compensation for your emotional damages and receive punitive damages if your case is extreme. This is your right under the law, and you can fight for it in court.