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March 4, 2024 | EmploymentLitigation

Can You Sue for Wrongful Termination in Tennessee?

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What Is Wrongful Termination?

In Tennessee, wrongful termination occurs when an employee is fired for reasons that violate state or federal laws.  Tennessee is an “at-will” employment state, meaning employers can terminate employees for any lawful reason or no reason at all.  The reason an employer gives for firing an employee does not have to be fair or reasonable – it just may not be unlawful under the anti-discrimination laws or other public policies.  In fact, an employer is not even required to give a reason for firing an employee.   However, firing or termination based on an employee’s race, gender, age, disability, religion, or national origin, for example, is strictly prohibited. Additionally, employees cannot be fired for reasons that violate public policy, such as refusing to engage in illegal activities or reporting illegal conduct by the employer.

What Evidence Do You Need to File a Wrongful Termination Claim?

Prior to filing a wrongful termination claim, having sufficient evidence is essential.  Documentation plays a crucial role, including maintaining copies of your employment contract, performance evaluations, emails, and any written communications regarding your employment or termination.  Witness statements from colleagues or supervisors who can testify about discriminatory treatment, retaliation, or breaches of contract can significantly strengthen your case.  Additionally, providing evidence of any relevant company policies or employee handbook provisions that were violated can help your claim.  Creating a complete timeline detailing events leading up to your termination can often help to provide a clear story of discriminatory conduct.  Consulting with a seasoned attorney prior to gathering any evidence can help provide an understanding of what you may need to gather and how best to lawfully obtain documents.

How To File a Wrongful Termination Lawsuit

Filing a wrongful termination lawsuit in Tennessee requires careful navigation of the legal system, starting with consulting an experienced employment attorney.  Your attorney will assess the details of your case and help you understand your rights under Tennessee employment laws and federal statutes.  Depending on the nature of your termination, it may be wise to first file a claim with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) for federal violations or the Tennessee Human Rights Commission (THRC) for state violations, before proceeding with a lawsuit.  Your claim may be able to resolve your grievance without a lawsuit through a process called conciliation (“settlement”).  Your attorney will guide you through this process and represent your interests during any investigations or conciliation efforts.  If conciliation fails or if you choose not to pursue it, your attorney may file a lawsuit on your behalf in state or federal court. Throughout the legal proceedings, your attorney will advocate for your rights, represent you in court, and help you evaluate any settlement offers that may arise.

How Long Do I Have to File a Claim?

In Tennessee, you have a limited amount of time to file a wrongful termination claim.  For a federal claim, you only have 180 days from termination to file with the EEOC.  However, in certain circumstances, you have 300 days if your claim is also related to Tennessee state laws barring discrimination.  It is imperative to take prompt action if you believe you have been wrongfully terminated to ensure your claim is within the allowable time frame or “statute of limitations.”  This is another reason why prompt consultation with a wrongful termination attorney is important.

How Long Does a Wrongful Termination Case Take?

The timeline for a wrongful termination case can vary depending on various factors: the complexity of the claim; caseload of the EEOC; and whether the claim settles or proceeds to trial. Typically, cases can take anywhere from several months to several years to resolve fully.  Settlement negotiations or alternative dispute resolution (“ADR”) may expedite the process, but cases that proceed to trial can take several years.  Understanding the potential duration of your case is essential for both navigating the legal process and moving on with your life post-termination.

How Much Does the Average Wrongful Termination Claim Settle For?

The settlement amount for a wrongful termination claim varies widely based on several factors.  These include the strength of the evidence presented, the extent of economic damages, such as lost wages and benefits, and the level of emotional distress experienced by the terminated employee.  Cases involving egregious conduct or repeated violations of the law may result in higher settlements.  While some settlements may be modest, others can be substantial, potentially including compensation for pain and suffering, punitive damages, and attorney fees.


If you believe you were wrongfully terminated, seeking legal counsel is advisable.  Not all terminations are unlawful.  But, to learn if one is, an experienced employment attorney can advise you and guide you through the legal process, along with its pitfalls and challenges.



Photo by Tanner Boriack on Unsplash
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