What is employment "at-will"? Under Georgia law, employees are considered to be at-will unless there is some other understanding (i.e., an employment agreement) between the employer and employee. (O.C.G.A. § 34-7-1).
According to Georgia law, an employer can fire an employee for any reason or no reason, good reason or bad reason. Georgia employment law gives employers very broad discretion in determining who will work for them, how long they will work, and when to let them go.
This discretion is not absolute, however. There are certain exceptions that employers must keep in mind, including (without limitation):
- Employers may not discriminate based on an employee’s age or disability. Public employers (i.e. government agencies whether state or local) may not discriminate based on race, color, religion, national origin, sex, disability, or age.
- Public employers must protect public employees who take "whistleblowing" actions against their employer.
- Employees may not be fired for taking time off to vote in primary or general elections, or for attending a court proceeding under a subpoena, for example.
Many employee rights in Georgia come from federal employment laws as well as certain worker's compensation and other provisions of state law. It is always a good idea, as an employer, to put together a robust employee handbook that covers policies and procedures for your employees. Also, if your company has sensitive and confidential information that employees access, it is a good idea to consider non-disclosure agreements and other "work-for-hire" arrangements for even employees who are "at-will."