“I’m in a ‘right to work’ state and employment is At-Will. So, I can fire anyone anytime and there is nothing they can do about it.”
Fact # 5: At-will is a fragile protection at best for employers, and “right to work” doesn’t apply to about 99% of our readers.
Let’s start with a general description of what “right to work” means. Right to work is simply the right in some states for employees to decide for themselves whether to join or financially support a union. It is most often applied in instances where a union agreement might cause an employer to have to fire an employee that will not participate and/or pay union dues in a unionized shop. Therefore, being in a right to work state doesn’t afford most dental employers with any significant benefit.
More importantly, let’s talk about At Will. This is a two way street between you and your employee. You may fire an employee or an employee may quit for a good reason, a stupid reason, or even for no reason. But the important distinction, which is worth billions of dollars in settlements, legal fees, and fines to the attorneys that make their money in the employment industry, is that you may not fire someone for an unlawful reason.
To put this as bluntly as possible, the attorney’s goal is to profit by proving you had an unlawful or illegal basis, like age, religion, pregnancy, race, sex, or disability for your decision to terminate. Your job is to be able to show that when you fired the employee for being late for the third time and for having a generally poor attitude, it had nothing to do with the fact that she was over 40, pregnant, and wanted to take a religious holiday for the Wiccan solstice. While you may be laughing now, remember that virtually everyone reading this article is in some sort of protected class!