In both Virginia and Tennessee unless an employee has a contract for a specific term of employment, generally speaking the employment is terminable at the will of the employer (“at-will” employment). In such situations employees may be terminated for any lawful reason or for no reason. An important exception to the at-will employment doctrine in Virginia and Tennessee is the concept of wrongful discharge. The discharge of an employee in violation of public policy is unlawful. In Virginia, the public policy exception generally only applies for termination of an employee who refuses to do an illegal act or in violation of a specific statute that is designed to protect the class of persons to which the employee belongs. Generally speaking, Tennessee’s doctrine of wrongful discharge is broader and may apply to certain other types of terminations. Each case is dependent upon the facts specific to it.
Our firm has experience analyzing potential wrongful discharge claims, advising our clients regarding them, and handling these kinds of cases in court.