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What should I know about losing a job?

Authored By: GeorgiaLegalAid.org
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Rights if you lose a job in Georgia

What should I know? +

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What are my rights if I am fired or let go from my job?

Most of the time, there is nothing you can do to get your job back because Georgia is an “at-will” employment state. That means your employer is allowed to fire you for almost any reason. However, you may have the right to appeal your firing if you are: 

  • a member of a union, 

  • work under a merit system for a governmental agency, or

  • have other appeal rights given by your employer. 

 

However, you cannot be fired or laid off for an illegal reason. This includes:

  • Discrimination. You cannot be terminated because of your:

    • Age (if you are 40 or older),

    • Genetic information,

    • Ethnicity or national origin,

    • Pregnancy,

    • Race/color,

    • Religion, 

    • Sex, gender identity, or sexual orientation.

  • Retaliation. You cannot be fired or laid off for exercising a right you have as an employee. Your rights include: 

    • Reporting dicrimination,

    • Engaging in union activity,

    • Reporting safety issues.

  • Breach of employment contract. If you had an employment contract, your employer cannot terminate you against the terms of a contract.

  • Garnishment/Child Support. You cannot be terminated because you have your wages garnished for a debt or child support payments.

  • Judicial proceedings. You cannot be terminated because you are in court because of a:

    • Subpoena,

    • Summons for jury duty,

    • Other court orders.

  • Bankruptcy. You can’t be fired because you file for bankruptcy.

 

If you are fired or laid off for an illegal reason, you have the right to file a legal claim against your employer.

 

You may also be eligible for certain benefits, including:

  • Unemployment compensation.

  • Health insurance through COBRA. If you were covered by health insurance, you have a right to continue the same coverage by paying the fees or premiums directly to the insurance company. 

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What can I do? +

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How do I file a complaint if I am fired illegally?

Your options after you are terminated illegally depend on why you were fired. 

  • If you were fired for illegal discrimination, you must first file a charge with the EEOC.

  • If you believe your employer retaliated against you for complaining about a safety or health issue in the workplace, you can file a complaint with OSHA. There are various time limits for when you can file a retaliation complaint, so you should file your complaint as soon as possible. Some time limits are as little as 30 days

    • File a complaint:

  • If you were fired because you were involved in union activity, you can file a charge with the National Labor Relations Board. 

    • You can file a charge:

  • If you were fired for another illegal reason, you may file a lawsuit against your employer. You should consult a lawyer immediately to learn about your rights and any time limits on filing a case.

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How do I apply for benefits after I lose my job?

Unemployment compensation

You can file for unemployment insurance benefits by calling or visiting your local Georgia Department of Labor office. You can file online if you have a valid email address and have earned Georgia wages in the past two years.

 

COBRA

Your health plan must tell you how to apply for COBRA benefits. There are certain deadlines:

  • Employers must notify plan administrators within 30 days of discharging you. 

  • The insurance company must send a “COBRA” notice about your right to continue coverage within 14 days after being notified by the employer. 

  • You will have 60 days to decide whether to continue coverage. In most cases, the premium will be much higher than what you were paying while employed. The reason is that the employer is no longer paying a portion of the premium. 

  • The first payment on the plan will not be due until 45 days after you choose to continue coverage.

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What other kinds of help could I qualify for?

Depending upon your household income, you may qualify for:

  • Medicaid. Medicaid provides free health insurance to low-income families. You can apply for Medicaid at your local Department of Family and Children Services office.

  • PeachCare for Kids. Children in the household may also be eligible for Peachcare, which is insurance for children who do not have other health coverage. 

  • SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly called Food Stamps). SNAP provides help with buying food.

  • TANF (Temporary Assistance to Needy Families). If there are dependent children in your household, you may also qualify for a small monthly check. Apply at the Department of Family and Children Services (DFCS). 

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Resources

  • Learn more about your options with COBRA on the Department of Labor website (this link is a PDF which may not be fully accessible).
Last Review and Update: Mar 09, 2020