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As a student employee of a state university, what laws protect me from wrongful termination?

Nashville, TN |

I am a white male and was fired from my job given no reason why. I spoke with the school human resources department and they told me that they didn't see the grounds for termination either. I have documented emails of all correspondences with my former employer. All I asked in an email before I was fired was if I could speak to someone over my boss about constant policy changes. The human resources department said since I'm in a state where employers aren't required to give reasons for termination they couldn't help me much. The issue also involved some gender discrimination, where the department also told me since I'm a white male I'm not protected and had no rights protecting me from wrongful termination. Any advice on how to attack this situation would be appreciated!

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Attorney answers 2


In Tennessee, employment is at-will (the employee can be fired for any reason), unless the parties have an agreement saying otherwise. However, state and federal statutes do prohibit discrimination based on race and gender. That includes discrimination against males and whites, but the employee has to prove the discriminatory motivation. Additional protections may apply since the university is a public institution. For example, the state may not retaliate against an employee for exercising First Amendment rights. If you want to pursue this further, you should speak to an experienced employment attorney to go over the facts.

This reply does not constitute legal advice or the establishment of an attorney-client relationship. Your receipt of the information on this website is not intended to create, and receipt does not constitute, a contract for representation by Michael J. Wall or Branstetter, Stranch & Jennings, PLLC. This information is not intended to substitute for obtaining legal advice. No person should act or rely on any information in this site without seeking the advice of an attorney.


As an employee, you have some basic employment rights under both state and federal laws. Apparently, Tennessee is an employment at will jurisdiction. Meaning the employer may terminate your employment for cause or without cause. However, if you feel you have been treated differently on the basis of your gender, then you may want to contact the local Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and file a complaint. The university may have their own EEO office, therefore you would need to engage that process as well as, or face the challenge of failure to exhaust administrative remedies. Definitely consult with an attorney in your area, as under the state laws, you may have several grounds to pursue. For instance, 1) wrongful discharge, emotional distress, etc.

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