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Questions about Right-to-Work Laws

The “right-to-work” law guarantees that no employee can be compelled on the condition of employment to join the union or pay union fees, and it prohibits agreements between the employer and labor unions from making these conditions of employment before or after hiring. Currently, 23 states have right-to-work laws, as per the 1947 federal Taft–Hartley Act. Right-to-work laws are often confused with “at-will” employment, which gives the employer the right to fire an employee with or without reason.

Below, legal experts clarify doubts on the subject.

I quit my job after a written agreement for a payment of $5500 for 3 months at a dealership company. However, after a month they paid me $4233 and fired me stating that Florida is a right-to-work state.

Yes, Florida is a right-to-work state. However, that only means that you cannot be forced to join a union or pay dues as a condition of employment, unless you work for a railroad, an airline, or a federal agency.

In your case, what may be relevant is that Florida is an employment-at-will state. This means that you can be terminated for any reason except illegal discrimination or existence of an employment contract. If your contract explicitly states an unconditional promise to pay you $5500 for three months, you may sue for breach of contract. However, the courts would consider whether the company had a right to terminate the contract because of some issue, such as your performance. Ultimately, the exact words in the contract would prevail.

Is Nevada is a right-to-work state where you can be terminated for flimsy reason like the employer not liking your hair?

The right-to-work law in Nevada, and elsewhere, applies only to employees choosing whether or not to join or financially support the union. Nevada is also an employment-at-will state, which means that you are employed outside the confines of a contract or a bargaining union agreement. However, firing an employee for not liking his/her hair may amount to discrimination, unless hair is specified in the handbook as part of the uniform. You can read more about Nevada’s at-will employment laws here.

As Kansas is a right-to-work state, can employers place an employee on final written warning without first serving a written warning?

The law that allows an employer to terminate an employee without warning is at-will employment and not right-to-work. Of course, the employer would have to do this within the confines of discrimination laws, unemployment, and workers’ compensation. If the employee handbook defines the different levels of disciplinary action, an attorney may find ways to make these enforceable in the event an employee is terminated.

Can a non-compete clause be enforced in a right-to-work state like Nebraska?

The non-compete agreement is unrelated to Nebraska being a right-to-work state as it is not a union-related issue. Whether or not a clause in the agreement is enforceable would depend on its fairness in defining the length of time, geographic area, or what sort of work it tries to prohibit. Also, whether it is overbroad in those areas depends on the type of business it is, what your position was at the time you were employed with them, and what you do now. Consult with a local attorney experienced in non-competes and have your non-compete agreement reviewed.

Understanding your rights under the right-to-work law allows you to make an informed decision on whether or not to join the union or pay union dues. While it may be confusing, the ability to distinguish between the “right-to-work” and the “employment-at-will” laws will help you in evaluating specific situations related to work or your employment. For this, it is best to consult a legal expert.
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