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Employment Discrimination Blog

Monday, July 1, 2013

Employees’ Legal Rights in Georgia

What You Need to Know Regarding Employment Termination and Workplace Retaliation

Most workers with a family, a mortgage or other obligations prefer “permanent” employment to contract or temporary employment because of the security it provides. This is ironic, though, because employers can dismiss even “permanent” employees at any time and without cause. Employers’ right to fire employees transcends reasons pertaining to employee competency and employer finances and means that all of the following scenarios are legal in Georgia in most instances:

  • Termination due to an issue as simple as a single dress code violation
  • Termination because an owner or manager doesn’t “like” an employee
  • Instant termination without any reason provided whatsoever

Though employees enjoy few rights regarding random, sudden and even vindictive termination, they do possess numerous and strong rights regarding employment discrimination. Specifically, employees in Georgia are protected from discrimination due to:

  • Race, national origin and religion
  • Disability
  • Gender (including pregnancy status and issues relating to childbirth and pregnancy-related medical conditions)
  • Age

Employees’ Legal Protections Don’t Just Apply to Termination

In regard to discrimination, limits to employers’ freedom don’t stop at employee firings. In regard to discrimination, Georgia’s employers must also follow strict laws regarding Employee promotions and demotions, employee pay, including overtime pay and employee classification, i.e. exempt vs. non exempt and retaliation.

This means that employees cannot fail to promote an individual due to his or her race, gender or other protected status. It also means that, for instance, employers must take care not to “group” individuals of similar race or ethnicity, then fail to pay them overtime (a common occurrence of this type of violation is the unequal treatment of immigrant restaurant and warehouse workers and other unskilled workers). Additionally, employers are forbidden to retaliate against individuals who report a potential instance of employment discrimination by withholding a promotion or demoting or terminating the individual.

What to Do If You Suspect You or Another Were the Victim of Employment Discrimination

By definition, employment discrimination involves loss. The loss of a job. The loss of advancement or status. The loss of pay. Federal and state employment laws are designed in part to assist the victims of employment discrimination to obtain a fair outcome as well as financial compensation for their loss. These can be provided in the form of:

  • Job reinstatement (including fully reinstated seniority)
  • Back pay for lost wages and benefits 
  • Compensatory damages for out-of-pocket losses, future losses and mental anguish 
  • Punitive damages if it can be demonstrated that an employer acted out of malice or reckless indifference
  • Attorneys' fees, court costs and court fees

The first step in a successful employment discrimination lawsuit is the filing of the claim. A formal complaint, known as a “charge of discrimination,” must be filed with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Once this is accomplished, the employee can file an employment discrimination lawsuit in court. The charge of discrimination must be filed within 180 days of the first instance of discrimination or retaliation. To learn more about your legal rights under federal and Georgia State employment laws, contact an experienced employment law attorney.


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The attorneys of Pankey & Horlock, LLC serve the entire state of Georgia, including Atlanta, Alpharetta, Auburn, Decatur, Doraville, Douglasville, Duluth, Kennesaw, Lawrenceville, Marietta, Stone Mountain, Dekalb County, Fulton County, Gwinnett County, and Cobb County, GA.



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