Not only does Georgia law recognize the concept of at-will employment, it sets a presumption that employers only hire employees to work for the duration of a single pay period. Unless the employer and employee sign a written employment contract that sets a different term, all employment in the state is considered indefinite employment. As such, employment may be terminated at will by either the employer or the employee for any legal reason or for no reason at all.
Reason for Termination
Georgia employers may terminate employees for no reason at all, but if a reason is provided it must be legal. The reason for termination may determine whether an employee is eligible for unemployment benefits, since the state only provides this financial assistance to workers who became unemployed through no fault of their own. For example, a worker who was fired because she violated her company's attendance policy by clocking in late every day for a week would not be eligible for unemployment benefits.
As much leeway as employers have, Georgia law forbids termination for certain specific reasons. For example, an employer can't fire an employee for not coming to work if that employee was ordered to appear in court. The state also forbids discrimination based on a worker's age.
Federal law prohibits discrimination on the basis of a number of factors, including race, religion, age and disability. Georgia workers fired for a reason they believe violates federal law should file a complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
Georgia employers must provide a terminated employee with a separation notice. The form, once filled out by the employer, will contain information such as the employee's name and Social Security number, when the employee worked for the employer and how much she was paid during that time.
If an employer lays off more than 25 workers at once for the same reason, such as a lack of available work, he can fill out a mass separation notice instead. That form does not require specific information about each employee.
Getting Unemployment Benefits
Terminated employees may be eligible for unemployment benefits. To find out if they qualify for this financial assistance, and how much money they can receive, they must fill out an application at a Georgia Department of Labor Career Center. Applicants present a government-issued photo ID and sign an affidavit stating they are a U.S. citizen or a non-citizen legally permitted to work in the U.S.
If a worker begins receiving unemployment benefits, he must continue to actively seek new employment to keep receiving those benefits.
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