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Right-to-Work vs. At-Will: What’s the Difference?

Plenty of workers (and employers) routinely confuse two common terms in the context of employment law: “right-to-work” and “at-will.” Many people assume that the two terms are, more or less, interchangeable; that they both refer to the freedoms of employers and employees. While there is some overlap between the two concepts, they are actually quite different from each other. After reading this blog, you will have a better understanding of right-to-work and at-will as they pertain to employment law.

What Is At-Will Employment?

Every state besides Montana has a presumption that employees have entered into an at-will employment agreement with their employers. This means that employers are free to terminate employees at any time, with or without notice, for (almost) any reason. They may also raise or lower wages, add or revoke benefits, and change general conditions of employment for at-will employees. Again, these actions may be taken without notifying employees in advance.

The other side of the at-will coin is that employees are generally free to resign from a job position without providing advance notice to employers. So, while at-will employment has somewhat of a bad reputation, workers enjoy some benefits from the common-law doctrine. Employment agreements can overcome the at-will presumption; for instance, an executive could negotiate a contract that prohibits termination without cause. If there is no written employment agreement between a worker and the employer, the presumption is that the working relationship was at-will.

Right-to-Work, Defined

A slight majority of states (at least 28) have passed right-to-work laws. These laws allow workers to accept job offers without being required to join a union or collective bargaining unit. Employees in those 28 states may not be compelled to pay union dues, and their willingness (or unwillingness) to participate in some sort of collective bargaining agreement cannot affect any condition of their employment.

Florida is a right-to-work state for both public- and private-sector employees. However, employers that must work with unions or a collective bargaining unit may have agreements that supersede the at-will presumption. For example, a union might negotiate that members may only be terminated for cause. If the employer is based in a right-to-work state, though, workers who benefit from that agreement may not be forced to actually pay union dues.

Our Firm Help Business Owners Succeed

Understanding Florida law as it relates to at-will employment and right-to-work is important before you make your first hire. Having a robust employment contract is crucial in avoiding future liability issues, and the two employment law items covered in this blog are important considerations in that context. Trembly Law Firm helps entrepreneurs set up strong legal protections and defends them when a lawsuit threatens their operation. Contact us today to set up an appointment with our legal team. Call today at (305) 431-5678.

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