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On The Law: Right to work

From Brian Fannin, Fannin Law PLLC
A Fredericksburg Today Partner

“Work,” Oscar Wilde once said, inverting the earnest slogan of his day, “is the curse of the Drinking Class.” Even today, when we benefit from all of the self-knowledge available to us through psychological testing, the comments of internet trolls and kids encouraged to be honest to a fault, we have mixed emotions about work and whether it ennobles or degrades. There goes the new employee off to labor, happily singing “Hi-Ho” along with the Seven Dwarves, and then eventually back comes the fired laborer, shoulders slumped from breathing the same air as the “Human Relations Specialist”.
Legally speaking, Virginia is what we call a “Right to Work” state, one in which the standards for quitting or being fired from a job are considered broad. Quitting is rarely the subject of a lawsuit, the 13th Amendment being pretty well-accepted by most employers (and you really should avoid working for the ones who haven’t internalized it yet). When firing, however, many employers make the mistake of thinking the law is as simple as the slogan “Right to Work”. Yes, workers can be fired for almost any reason or even none, or even (in the case of a waitress) if her “slim belly” disappears because she is carrying the boss’s son’s child (see Shlomo v. Junior Corp. if you don’t believe me).
But there are reasons for which a worker cannot legally be fired—if such reasons would violate the Virginia Human Rights Act, or if the employee was a whistleblower, or if the employee was asked to violate the law and refused. There are many instances where it would be smarter for a company, particularly if it has any accounting or other practices that its shareholders, contract-issuers or government partners might object to, simply to reach a settlement and let an employee go (after all, every disgruntled employee is now equipped with a pocket camera, digital recorder and database to look up his or her rights in—all of which are well-protected by Virginia’s one party consent rules when it comes to recording). Because of this, when I am representing a wrongly terminated employee and I hear the corporate side say “It’s a Right to Work state”, I know we are halfway to victory based simply on their ignorance.
If you believe, like Oscar Wilde did, that “work is the refuge of those with nothing better to do”, you probably won’t need employment law representation. But if you feel you’re being targeted or harassed at work, or if a federal contractor is failing to present job openings or provide the information required under U.S. law, or if you’ve been fired without being given the same due process other employees received, it may be time to fight back. Come plan a free consultation with Fannin Law PLLC and we’ll discuss when to blow that whistle, when to claim your rights and when to file suit against an employer who has wronged you. All of these actions are restricted by strict time limitations, so the sooner a worker speaks with an attorney, the better.

Brian Fannin

Fannin Law PLLC is available for consultations by calling 540.371.5300 or emailing [email protected]


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