You Don’t Have a “Right to Work” in Texas.

Clients sometimes ask, “Isn’t Texas a ‘right-to-work’ state, and, if so, how can my employer just terminate me?”  The term “right-to-work” refers to labor law that applies to a union/non-union situation.  In Texas and several other states, “right-to-work” means only that labor unions and employers cannot require employees’ membership, payment of union dues, or union fees as a condition of employment, either before or after hiring. Right-to-work laws do not aim to provide any general guarantee of employment, but rather are a government regulation of the contractual agreements between employers and labor unions that prevents them from excluding non-union workers, or requiring employees to pay a fee to unions that have negotiated the labor contract all the employees work under.

The principle that generally governs employment in Texas is called “employment at-will.”  This means that an employer can terminate a person’s employment for any reason, no reason, or a stupid reason – so long as it is not a discriminatory reason. Additionally, “discriminatory” in this context means that the employee or applicant must be a member of a “protected class.”  The primary protected classes in the law are (1) race, (2) gender or sex, (3) religion, (4) national origin, (5) disability, and (6) age.  If the reason for your termination was, for example, your age, then you may have a claim, depending upon your evidence.  There are a few other specialized classes, such as serving on a jury. But the six listed are the ones that most often arise in employment situations.

So you don’t have a “right to work” in Texas.  In fact, an employer can legally fire you at will for any non-discriminatory reason.


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