What is a right-to-work state? This question is one of the most common regarding employee rights. Rightfully so. These laws cover millions of private-sector workers in multiple industries throughout the United States.
From teachers to firefighters and electricians to pipefitters, and many more types of workers —if you live in a right-to-work state, you should understand how that can impact your career and employee rights.
What Is A Right to Work State?
A right-to-work state has passed legislation at the state level detailing an employee’s right to work at a job while having a choice of whether to join a union or not. Over half of the states have passed state laws addressing this issue.
When an individual who works in a right-to-work state is hired by an employer subject to a collective bargaining agreement, that individual must consider the pros and cons of joining the union which represents that employer’s employees and then decide whether to join or not. In a Right to Work State, the employee is not required by law to join the union and pay dues, even though all workers who fall within the bargaining unit are covered by the negotiated collective bargaining agreement regardless of membership status. Neither the Union nor the Employer may compel union membership as a condition of employment. As part of the legislation, workers benefit from collective bargaining agreements negotiated by unions, whether or not they are a member. Employers must abide by right-to-work laws or be held accountable under federal and state laws.
Is Florida a Right to Work State?
Florida enacted right-to-work legislation back in 1943. States across the country also have right-to-work laws, including our neighboring states- Georgia, Alabama, Louisiana, and Tennessee.
There are varying viewpoints on being a right-to-work state. Some view it as a good thing, giving individuals more freedom in their chosen field and the right to reject compulsory membership. Others are opposed, including many labor and employee rights groups, because they feel right-to-work states are anti-union and do not provide protections for employees against unjust actions by employers while placing the cost of protecting employees’ rights (member and nonmembers) on the union and dues-paying members.
Employment law attorneys are strong advocates of employee rights, helping workers hold employers accountable for employment law violations.
Right to Work v. At-Will Employment: What’s the Difference?
In addition to the common employee rights question, “What is a right to work state?” people will also often ask, “What is at-will employment?” Even though the questions sound similar, the answers are different.
The term at-will employment does not cover rights regarding unions or membership in a union. At-will employment means that an employer can fire you “at-will” for any reason, as long as it is not illegal. The employer is not bound by contractual obligations such as those found in a collective bargaining agreement or individual employment agreement that requires a showing of “good cause” or “just cause” for termination or other disciplinary action. Just because you are an at-will employee that does not mean an employer may terminate your employment for an illegal reason. Illegal firing can include terminating you because of your religion, race, sexuality, or other types of discrimination, or your participation in certain activities which are prote4cted by law.
Florida is an at-will employment state as well. Even though your employer can legally fire you for any reason, such as performance, frequent call-outs, etc., employees have many rights, including rights against discrimination and wrongful termination, that are detailed in state and federal laws.
State and Federal Right to Work Laws
Right-to-work laws are found on the state level and under federal legislation as well.
A basic summary of Florida’s right-to-work laws is as follows:
Under Fla. Const. Art. I §6, “The right of persons to work shall not be denied or abridged by membership or nonmembership in any labor union or organization.”
The National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), administered by the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), is the federal legislation that addresses issues covered in Florida’s right-to-work law.
An employee rights attorney can utilize state or federal law as the legal authority in the development of a case against an employer for violations of employee rights.
There are multiple ways that an employer may violate state and federal laws regarding right-to-work.
Do I Have a Case Against My Employer?
Employees have the power to file a case against their employer under right-to-work laws. Depending on your particular situation, you may or may not have a case.
According to the NLRB, examples of NLRA violations that may qualify for a case include:
- An employer threatens employees with loss of jobs or benefits if they join or vote for a union or engage in protected concerted activity.
- An employer is transferring, laying off, terminating, assigning employees more difficult work tasks, or otherwise punishing employees because they engaged in union or protected concerted activity.
- An employer transferring, laying off, terminating, assigning employees more difficult work tasks, or otherwise punishing employees because they filed unfair labor practice charges or participated in an investigation conducted by NLRB.
- An employer threatens to close a plant if employees select a union to represent them.
This is not comprehensive of potential violations. Each situation is different, and you may have a case if your circumstance is different than those listed above.
In addition, if your employer violated at-will employment laws, such as firing you specifically due to your race, religion, disability, or sex, you may also have a case.
Your Next Steps
If you believe your employer has violated your rights, contact an employee rights attorney to discuss your case. They will thoroughly examine the details of the situation and advise you of your best legal options moving forward.
Gather any documentation you may have, including relevant HR records, employee handbooks, memos, emails, etc., which includes:
- documentation of any dates,
- details of what occurred,
- locations of threats that you have received, and
- any witnesses to those threats.
It is not uncommon for employers to violate right-to-work laws for more than one employee. Your situation may qualify for a class-action lawsuit. Whether violations of employee rights occur on an individual or a group level, everyone is entitled to legal representation.
Wenzel Fenton Cabassa, P.A. fights for justice for employees every day. We are aggressive advocates of employee rights and have helped thousands of workers across Florida. We explore every avenue to ensure our clients are adequately compensated for their losses.
Contact us today to schedule a free, confidential consultation. We’re the employee’s law firm— a tireless legal team fighting for your rights.
Please Note: At the time this article was written, the information contained within it was current based on the prevailing law at the time. Laws and precedents are subject to change, so this information may not be up to date. Always speak with a law firm regarding any legal situation to get the most current information available.