is this legal? can he do this? what should i/can i do?
In Georgia, there is no general right or entitlement to any job (absent a contract). Employment is at will and employees can be terminated for an or no reason, except a few categories of unlawful discrimination. Your post indicates you have no legal claim. A reason is not necessary, but publicly promoting the competition was a good enough reason for your employer.
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Where you are an employee at will, an employer can terminate for any reason or no reason, as long as they are not engaging in discrimination or violating public policy. See the brief article linked below in blue for more:
Law Offices of Andrew D. Myers, North Andover, MA & Derry, NH provide answers for informational purposes only. Actual legal advice can only be given by an attorney licensed in your jurisdiction, thoroughly familiar with the area of the law in which your concern lies. This creates no attorney-client relationship.
Put yourself in the shoes of the owner of your restaurant, just for a moment. Would YOU want an employee with this sort of sense? It isn't so much punishment or retaliation for what you did as much as, from your former employer's point of view, your conduct was strong evidence that you lack the quantity and quality of judgment and good sense that your employer wants in the employees for the business. Learn a lesson and move forward with a wiser head.
My responses to questions on Avvo are never intended as legal advice and must not be relied upon as legal advice. I give legal advice only in the course of an attorney-client relationship. Exchange of information through Avvo's Questions forum does not establish an attorney-client relationship with me. That relationship is established only by individual consultation and execution of a written agreement for legal services.