Right to Work vs. At-Will

I’m protected because I live in a “right to work”/”at-will” state!

My HR expert told me I don’t need to worry about my employee handbook and don’t need to update it because I am in an at-will and right-to-work state.

At-will is a fragile protection for employers, at best, 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 some states grant to employees to decide whether to join or financially support a union. Most often, it applies to circumstances where a union agreement might cause an employer to fire an employee that will not participate in and/or pay union dues in a unionized shop. Accordingly, being in a right to work state doesn’t afford dental or medical employers any significant benefits.

What about “at will” employment?

This is a two way street between you and your employee. Generally, you may fire an employee or an employee may quit for a good reason, a bad reason, or even for no reason. But, there’s an important distinction, and it’s worth billions of dollars in settlements, legal fees, and fines. You may not fire someone for an unlawful reason.

To put it bluntly, an employment attorney’s goal is to profit by proving you had an unlawful or illegal basis for your decision to terminate, like age, religion, pregnancy, race, sex, or disability. Your job is to prove that when you fired the employee, 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, and everything to do with the fact she was late three times and had a poor attitude. While you may be laughing now, remember that virtually everyone reading this article is in some protected class!

Therefore, unless you are an employee who wants to work without being forced to pay union dues, right to work affords you NO protection. Did your HR expert tell you not to worry because you are in an at-will and right to work state?

Need a new HR expert? Yes you do!

Have an issue or a question about your rights as an employer? Click here to get in touch with the HR experts at CEDR HR Solutions.

Mar 22, 2015

Friendly Disclaimer: This information is general in nature and is not intended to provide legal advice or replace individual guidance about a specific issue with an attorney or HR expert. The information on this page is general human resources guidance based on applicable local, state and/or federal U.S. employment law that is believed to be current as of the date of publication. Note that CEDR is not a law firm, and as the law is always changing, you should consult with a qualified attorney or HR expert who is familiar with all of the facts of your situation before making a decision about any human resources or employment law matter.

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