Exploring The Differences Between “Right To Work” And “At Will” Employment
With the ways many people toss around employment law terminology, it is no wonder that employees can get confused about their rights in the workplace. One source of misunderstanding is the difference between “right to work” and “at-will” employment, two concepts that might seem similar at first glance. To clear up one discrepancy, you should note that the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) is the federal statute that addresses right to work. Florida state laws provide that employment arrangements are at-will, and all US states except Montana also follow this rule.
However, beyond this basic distinction, there are many additional factors to know about right to work and at-will employment. The relevant concepts draw from labor laws, but they also touch on discrimination, harassment, and other workplace misconduct. Your rights could be affected in different ways, so it is important to consult with a West Palm Beach employment law attorney about how these concepts apply to your circumstances.
At-Will Employment is the Default Rule: All individuals who are true employees of a Florida company, as opposed to independent contractors, work according to the at-will employment rule. This term means that an employee can leave their job and an employer can terminate a worker at any time, for any reason – almost.
The important caveat to at-will employment is that a company cannot fire or engage in adverse action against an employee for discriminatory reasons. If your employer terminated you on account of race, gender, sex, disability, or other protected characteristics, you may have rights under wrongful termination laws. You might also have legal remedies if you were fired for engaging in protected activities, such as:
- Filing a discrimination or harassment charge;
- Assisting another employee with a workplace discrimination case; or,
- Seeking workers’ comp benefits for a work-related injury.
At-will employment concepts do not address employee rights regarding labor unions or membership in them.
Right to Work and Labor Laws: There are some industries where labor unions are active and have high levels of membership among employees. In many states, including Florida, lawmakers have determined that the market is better served by allowing workers to make the choice on union membership. In right to work states, workers can decide if they want to join the union and pay dues to receive the benefits of membership.
Though they are related to labor laws, right to work concepts may affect at-will employment. When an employee exercises the right to work by joining a union, there may be contractual obligations contained in the collective bargaining agreement. The contract dictates the terms of employment, not the notion of employment at-will.
Our Florida Employment Lawyers Can Provide Additional Information
This information on the differences between right to work and at-will employment is useful, but you should rely on skilled legal counsel if you have concerns about treatment at work. For more information, please contact Sconzo Law Office. Individuals in Palm Beach County and South Florida can call 561-279-6114 or visit us online to schedule a free consultation with an employment law attorney.