The Right To Work Law is fairly common in the United States, and is also just as commonly misunderstood. Most people think that the law means that an employer can fire an employee for absolutely any reason because the employment is “at will,” meaning the employee has the right to work, but the employer also has the right to fire. This is not the whole picture, and a small business owner must know how to tread lightly in this area.
According to the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, “A Right to Work law guarantees that no person can be compelled, as a condition of employment, to join or not to join, nor to pay dues to a labor union. Section 14(b) of the Taft-Hartley Act affirms the right of states to enact Right to Work laws.” Twenty-six states have adopted this law.
Other interpretations of the law include the following points:
- Shift the scales of power more in the direction of employers.
- Decrease union dues.
- Increase union expense of representation.
In light of right-to-work, now consider at-will employment. According to Ruth Mayhew at the Houston Chronicle, “The employment-at-will doctrine isn’t a law. It’s a business practice that most private employers embrace to ensure they don’t imply that employees are under contract to work for them. The employment-at-will doctrine states that the employer or the employee has the right to end the working relationship at any time, for any reason or for no reason, with or without notice”. Mayhew continues, “The opposite of employment-at-will where a labor union contract is concerned is ‘just cause.’ Collective bargaining agreements generally require that the employer have just cause for employee discharge, which means the employee must violate a workplace policy, engage in repeated and intentional gross misconduct or perform job duties far below expectations to be fired.”
On March 10th, Ben Jones of the Weld Riley Law Firm gave a presentation at the Frac Sand 2016 Industry Update Conference in Houston, Texas. Ben addressed the issue of at-will employment. Ben Jones adds two more caveats regarding at-will employment.
- Employment cannot be terminated due to race, color, creed, gender, age, etc.
- Be careful when firing whistle-blowers. If a whistle-blower is fired right after blowing the whistle, a court of law most probably will decide in the former employee’s favor if a lawsuit is filed.
This article was written by Richard Carranza for Small Business Pulse