Employment Discrimination

It is illegal to discriminate in hiring, promotions, termination (known as wrongful termination) or other aspects of employment on the basis of a person’s race, gender, national origin, religion, disability, or age, or to retaliate against an individual for opposing such practices.

Employment discrimination and wrongful termination claims can be difficult because the employee has to prove that the reason he was fired (wrongful termination), not hired, not promoted, or otherwise harassed is because of his (or her) “protected classification”. By protected classification, we mean a person’s gender (male or female), race (black or white), national origin (Hispanic, Asian, African, or having parents or grandparents from anywhere outside of the United States), age (over 40), or disability. In this sense, the employee has to prove why the company did it.

In the case of religious discrimination, and disability discrimination, it may also be illegal for an employer to deny reasonable accommodations to an employee. For example, absent extenuating circumstances, an employer cannot require a person to violate his or her religious beliefs such as working on the Sabbath, eating a forbidden food, or using alcohol if doing so is against the person’s religious principles. Instead, the employer must make an accommodation enabling the employee to do his job without violating his religion. Similarly, an employer must accommodate the disabilities of its employees if those disabilities meet certain standards. If a company terminates an employee without considering an accommodation, this too can be wrongful termination.

This page discusses the proof, definition, and pitfalls of employment discrimination and wrongful termination claims (wrongful termination is a kind of discrimination.) Other pages specifically address the different kinds of employment discrimination:

  • Sex / Race Discrimination
  • Retaliation
  • Religious and Disability Discrimination
  • Age Discrimination
  • Sexual Orientation Discrimination
  • Housing Discrimination

What is Discrimination?

Discrimination lawyers, particularly employment discrimination lawyers, often find themselves in the difficult position of having to explain the difference between reality and legality. By its definition, discrimination simply means the process of choosing between two alternatives. But discrimination law or more appropriately anti-discrimination law addresses the act of making choices based upon a person’s race, gender, religion, national origin (ethnicity), disability, or age (over 40) or other protected class. There are also some laws that prohibit discrimination based upon a person’s sexual orientation. These are commonly wrongful termination claims. Wrongful termination is particularly serious because a person can lose an entire income.


Tennessee recognizes the doctrine of “at will” employment. At will employment simply means that an employee works for a company only so long as both employee and the company want the relationship. In short, the employee can no more make the company give him a job than the company can make the employee work. You can quit any time you want to quit and a company can fire you any time it no longer wants you working for it. In fact, neither one of you needs a reason to end the relationship. (Thus, most terminations are not a wrongful termination.) Employment discrimination, wrongful termination and retaliation are exceptions to at will employment.

The Laws

There are many laws that address employment discrimination and wrongful termination including Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), and others. Some of these laws require that the employer have a minimum number of employees; and the total number of employees can effect the amount of money that can be recovered for discrimination or wrongful termination.

To speak to one of our legal professionals who is dedicated to communicating with you, is sensitive to your needs and is an effective and skilled advocate, contact the law firm of Karnes Legal Services, at 731-668-9529. Or, if you prefer, send us an e-mail using our secure online form. We accept all major credit cards.