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It’s fairly common for people who lose their jobs to think they have a case of wrongful termination against their employer. Unfortunately, in most cases, employers have the right to terminate employees at any time, even if it is unfair.

There are exceptions, however, when job termination is both unfair and illegal.

When is job termination illegal?

Tennessee is an at-will employment state. This means that unless you have an employment contract, your employment is at the will of your employer. You and your employer can end your employment relationship at any time–and your employer can do so for almost any reason.

However, there are times when it is illegal for your employer to fire you. Here are a few examples:

  • Your employer fired you because of your age, race, sex, religion, national origin, disability or other protected status.
  • Your employer fired you in retaliation for filing a discrimination claim or for supporting a coworker’s claim.
  • Your employer fired you because you refused to have sex with him or her.
  • Your employer fired you in retaliation for filing a sexual harassment claim or for supporting a coworkers’ claim.
  • Your employer fired you for taking leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act.
  • Your employer fired you for reporting illegal activity.

The distinctions between legal job termination and illegal termination are subtle, and only an experienced attorney can tell you if you have a legal claim against your employer and how to document it.