Can You Get Fired for a DUI?

If you are facing DUI charges, you are probably feeling overwhelmed with many concerns. When will you have to go to court? What will all this cost? Will you have to go to jail? And perhaps most importantly – could you lose your job if you are convicted? An experienced DUI attorney can help answer all these questions and protect your legal rights throughout the criminal case process.

If you have been arrested for drunk driving, call Barnes Law at 865-805-5703. The first step toward protecting your employment is defending yourself against DUI charges. Our experienced Knoxville DUI attorneys know how to fight improper charges to prevent wrongful convictions.

Lawful Reasons for Terminating Employment

Tennessee is an “employment at will” state. This means that, in general, an employee can be fired for good cause, bad cause, or no cause at all. However: both state and federal laws limit the circumstances in which an employee can be fired. So even the broad “employment at will” is restricted by these prohibited firing circumstances. They include:

  • Firing on the basis of the employee’s race, sex, age, religion, color, or national origin. (This is prohibited by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.)
  • Firing on the basis of a disability, if the employee is otherwise qualified to perform the job. (This is prohibited by the Americans With Disabilities Act.)
  • Firing whistleblowers who refuse to participate in – or refuse to remain silent about – their employer’s illegal activities. (This is prohibited by Section 50-1-304 of the Tennessee Code. There are also federal statutes that protect whistleblowers in other circumstances.)
  • Firing an employee solely because he or she has taken qualified leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (29 U.S.C. §2614).
  • Firing an employee who has been called to military service. (This is prohibited by Sections 8-33-101 thru 8-33-109 of the Tennessee Code.)
  • Firing an employee for voting in elections. (This is prohibited by Section 2-1-106 of the Tennessee Code.)
  • Firing an employee who was exercising his or her right of association. (This is prohibited by Sections 50-1-201 thru 50-1-204 of the Tennessee Code.)
  • Firing an employee because he or she is subject to wage garnishment. (This is prohibited by Sections 26-2-101 thru 26-2-410 of the Tennessee Code.)
  • Firing an employee for filing a workers’ compensation claim. (This is prohibited by Sections 50-6-101 thru 50-6-705 of the Tennessee Code.)
  • Firing an employee because he or she was called to jury duty. (This is prohibited by Section 22-4-108 of the Tennessee Code.)

These are important legal protections. But as you can see, there are no laws prohibiting an employee from being fired because he or she has gotten a DUI. Simply being arrested is sufficient legal grounds for being fired legally in Tennessee – your employer does not have to wait for a conviction.

What Can I Do to Protect My Employment After a DUI?

Just because employers can fire an employee for getting a DUI does not mean that they definitely will. In most cases, the employer wants to understand the circumstances of a DUI before making any employment decisions. This is why it is so important to have an experienced DUI attorney working on your case from the start. The sooner an attorney becomes involved in your case, the better he or she will be able to defend the charges against you. An experienced DUI attorney will know if there are any legal defenses that can be raised to dismiss the charges altogether. If the charges cannot be dismissed, there still may be questions about the authenticity of the evidence. (For example, if the breathalyzer was not properly calibrated, or the results were within the device’s known margin of error.) In such cases, a prosecutor is often willing to offer a fair plea agreement rather than take a shaky case to trial.

Once your DUI attorney has found the best method of resolving your case, you will be in a better position to explain the situation to your employer. It is much better to be able to say that the charges against you were dismissed or that you have pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor rather than having to explain that you are facing felony charges at trial. By laying the groundwork for an effective defense as soon as you are arrested, you will be in a better position to protect your employment.

Discipline Against Your Professional License

Of course, some decisions are beyond your employer’s control. Many professional licensing boards require you to report arrests or convictions. If your license to practice nursing, law, medicine, accounting, or another profession is suspended or revoked, your employer will likely have little choice but to fire you. Here, too, it is important to lay the groundwork for an effective defense to the DUI charges as soon as possible. This will help you present a stronger case to your professional licensing agency if you face discipline later.

Some professional boards require you to report arrests and convictions to them directly. Others search public records and initiate investigations on their own. In either case, you will be informed of the charges against your license, and be given the opportunity to present your case at a hearing. Here, too, it is important to have a good legal defense from the start of the criminal case. This will allow you to present your case fairly to the board.

Call Us Today to Speak with an Experienced Knoxville DUI Defense Lawyer

At Barnes Law, we believe that every defendant has the right to a vigorous defense. The constitution and state law both protect your right to confront the evidence against you, cross-examine witnesses, and present your side of the story. By protecting your constitutional rights during the criminal case process, you can also mitigate the collateral consequences of a DUI. Protect both your constitutional rights and your employment rights by consulting with a criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. Call 865-805-5703 or contact us online today to schedule your free consultation. Our experienced DUI lawyers will fight hard to protect your legal rights.