What Is Retaliatory Discharge in Tennessee?
While there are various state and federal laws in place to safeguard the rights of Tennessee employees, many employers fail to honor them, making it all the more important for wronged workers to understand and recognize misconduct in the workplace and exercise their employee rights when needed.
Retaliation is a common type of misconduct on part of Tennessee employers and companies. This legal term in employment law refers to any adverse action against employees in response to protected conduct, such as filing a workers' comp claim or participating in legally protected activities, such as whistleblowing or filing complaints for harassment or discrimination.
Keep reading to learn more about recognizing and addressing workplace retaliation and affiliated behaviors in Tennessee workplaces.
Retaliatory Discharge vs. Wrongful Termination at Work
Retaliatory discharge is a form of retaliation resulting in wrongful termination. This occurs when an employer fires an employee for unjust reasons. Such reasons are known as “protected conduct.”
Protected conduct is defined as any activity that employees are legally allowed to undertake without fear of retaliation or retribution from their employer. This may include filing complaints or grievances about workplace issues, participating in workplace investigations, exercising their rights under the Tennessee Workers’ Compensation Act and other laws, engaging in whistleblowing activities, and more.
When can wrongful termination lead to retaliatory discharge lawsuits? Common examples include:
- Firing an employee for not participating in illegal activities
- Firing an employee for reporting an act of workplace misconduct, such as sexual harassment
- Firing an employee on the basis of a protected class, including race, disability, gender, religion, age, national origin, or sex
Understanding “At-Will” Employment in Tennessee
The state of Tennessee honors an at-will employment doctrine, meaning that employers and employees alike reserve the right to terminate their working relationship at any given time, for any reason or no reason. At-will employment is established when an employer offers employment to a worker without a contractual agreement that outlines the terms of the job, such as length of tenure or grounds for termination of employment.
Although this can offer certain freedoms and protections to Tennessee companies and workers, there are limits to each party's power when it comes to "at-will" employment. For instance, it's illegal for employers to end an employee's employment on the grounds of discrimination based on race, gender, age, national origin, religion, or disability. It’s also illegal to retaliate against an employee by firing them for legally protected conduct.
If you suspect that you were wrongfully terminated or retaliated against by your Tennessee employer, it’s crucial to understand your employee rights under the law. Consulting with a qualified employment attorney can help determine whether wrongful termination occurred and empower workers to recover compensation for damages caused by retaliation, wrongful termination, or retaliatory discharge in court.
Proving Retaliatory Discharge in Court
Although employee rights are violated regularly in Tennessee, it can be exceedingly difficult for wronged workers to successfully make a case for themselves in court. Even well-meaning employees with perfectly valid reasons to pursue a retaliatory discharge case can be met with disappointment, as substantial evidence is required to successfully recover compensation.
After suffering acts of employer misconduct, a qualified employment lawyer can help wronged workers collect and present all necessary evidence as effectively as possible to back the employee’s claims and obtain a favorable result in court. To successfully make a case for retaliatory discharge, employees must prove the following:
- They were employed by the employer in question;
- They were wrongfully discharged from employment; and
- The reason for termination was largely due to the employee’s participation in protected conduct.
Evidence in Retaliatory Discrimination Cases
There are various types of evidence to prove retaliatory discharge or other acts of misconduct by a Tennessee company or employer. It’s crucial for wronged workers to consult with a trusted employment law attorney before taking any legal steps. A qualified legal advocate can utilize their in-depth knowledge of state and federal employment laws to determine which legal approach is best for your unique circumstances and what evidence will be most beneficial to fortify your claims in court.
The evidence used to prove retaliatory discharge in employment law disputes can take one of the following forms:
- Direct Evidence – This evidence demonstrates a direct link between wrongful termination and protected workplace conduct. Common examples include conversations, voicemails, witness statements, and correspondence, such as letters, emails, texts, and other workplace communications.
- Circumstantial Evidence – Also known as indirect evidence, this type of evidence entails an implied link between wrongful termination and the employee’s protected conduct in the workplace. For example, any correlation between the quantity or timeline of complaints filed by an employee and adverse actions on part of the employer can help prove retaliatory discharge in Tennessee workplaces.
Strong Advocacy for Employees Throughout the Mid-South
Our distinguished firm only represents employees, not employers. When you reach out to our compassionate employment lawyers at Donati Law, PLLC, you can rest assured that our team will keep your best interests at heart from start to finish. As the region’s trusted name for employment matters, our team has rich and diverse experience in a variety of employment law disputes, from sexual harassment to age discrimination.
If you’ve been mistreated or discriminated against by an employer in Tennessee, it’s imperative to take swift legal action and demand the compensation you’re rightfully entitled to. With over 150 years of collective legal experience, you can count on Donati Law to effectively represent your unique needs, advocate on your behalf, and fight for the favorable outcome you deserve.
If you’ve been treated unfairly by a boss or employer, you deserve compensation. Call Donati Law at (901) 209-5500 to schedule a free consultation.