E-Newsletter Edition: April 18, 2007
Always note that state law may be more restrictive on police power than the U.S. Constitution.
“I have always been under the impression that an employee hired under a probationary period, such as six months, can be terminated during that period of time without cause. Recently, I was informed that our city attorney states we must have cause to terminate even probationary employees. My department is in Georgia. Can you offer any guidance in this area? Thanks.”
Regarding the above question, there are a few rules to consider.
First, in GA, employees are considered “at-will” (see OCGA 34-7-1) unless the employment is by contract or the governmental entity provides “civil service” protection to it’s employees.
Second, government employees that are given civil service protection must be terminated in accordance with that government’s rules of civil service. Therefore, if the civil service rules provide that employees are not afforded civil service protection until after successful completion of probation, then 34-7-1 would apply and the employee would be “at-will.”
Third, if a government entity gives an employee civil service protection, then that creates a property interest in the employment. This means that the employee would be entitled to notice and a hearing prior to termination of employment. This is procedural due process.
Lastly, the final answer to this question depends specifically upon the rules of civil service for the government by which you are employed. In other word, does your employer provide a property interest to employees that are in the probationary period? Thus, your own employers civil service rules provide the answer to your question.