Chattanooga, TN asked in Employment Law and Civil Rights for Tennessee

Q: A customer used a racial slur, my friend politely told her it made her uncomfortable. The company fired my friend.

The customer complained to management who then fired my friend. The incident was not on company premises and my friend up to that point had been a highly valued employee. She was one of only three they kept on after bringing back everyone from furlough. My question is: is this actionable? Are they denying her First Amendment rights? We live in a right-to-work state.

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1 Lawyer Answer
Rhiannon Herbert
Rhiannon Herbert
  • Civil Rights Lawyer
  • Columbus, OH

A: Generally speaking, in at-will employment states, employees can be terminated for any reason or for no reason at all. However, an exception to this rule exists if the employee is terminated for a discriminatory reason. For example, if other employees WITHIN the company have treated your friend differently due to her race, such that your friend has reason to believe she was fired because of her race, then she may have a claim for race discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

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