In today’s tenuous job environment, with mass layoffs an almost daily news item, it behooves employees to become familiar with state laws and doctrines that directly affect their job security. Two such doctrines, employment at will, which favors employers, and right to work, which favors employees, are cases in point.
In states that adhere to the employment-at-will doctrine, such as New York, a company has the right to fire an employee for any reason, as long as it is not discriminatory in nature and does not have to explain the reason to the employee. An employee can be fired even for having a disagreeable personality and indeed, many of those employees should be terminated.
Right-to-work states favor employees. Right to work means that if you join a company in a position for which a union is present, you can refuse to join the union and can work in the position. You also have the right to resign from membership in a union at anytime, and any benefits provided to you by your employer under the collective bargaining agreement — such as wages, seniority, vacations, pension, health insurance — will not be affected by your resignation. If a state is not a right-to-work state, employees are forced to join unions if unions are present in particular industries and job types. For example, Illinois is a forced-union state. This situation has caused Illinois to lose businesses and large moneymaking conventions to other states because companies do not want to be forced to use union workers, who are always at higher rates.
According to the National Institute for Labor Relations Research, right-to-work states reached a 20.9 percent “growth in real manufacturing” between 2000 and 2008. Forced-unionism states reached a 9.1 percent growth in real manufacturing from 2000 to 2008. Right-to-work states allow each employee to weigh the advantages and disadvantages of joining a union and decide what is best to do. The 22 states with a right-to-work law are Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nebraska, Nevada, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia and Wyoming. For more information, go to www.nilrr.org.
Verbal Statement Needs Contract for Support
Scenario: My employer provides certain employees with credit cards for company-related purchases. The employer has told me and one other employee that we may use our credit cards for personal purchases each month as an incentive or bonus instead of giving us salary increases or other benefits. The company has no written policy regarding credit cards and we received this information verbally only. I’d like to ask the employer for something in writing, but I’m unsure of how to do so. I don’t want to look a gift horse in the mouth, but I don’t want to put myself into a “he said, she said” position regarding purchases later. Any advice?
Answer: It sounds like an offer that’s too good to be true, and that alone is a warning. Don’t be afraid to ask for the verbal statement in writing, because without it, you do not want to purchase anything in the personal category using the company credit card. A refusal to put it in writing will tell you immediately that something is wrong with the offer. Even if your employer is as kind as can be, he or she may reconsider and ask you to repay the amounts later. Worse, your employer may change his or her opinion of you and accuse you of fraud and press charges. You cannot afford to be naive in this situation. Whatever the employer’s reason is for making such an offer, say thank you but no thanks. When you do need to use the credit card for business, make sure you keep accurate records on the purchases and their uses. You may think the offer is a gift horse, but in fact, it may be a trap in waiting.