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Employment Discrimination Blog

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Employment Rights of Union vs Nonunion Employees

Why does Tom Brady, the football player, have more employment rights than the average American?

The ongoing "deflategate" investigation  has resulted in an as yet unresolved four-game suspension of Tom Brady by the National Football League Commissioner, Roger Goodell.  Many people question why he has the right to challenge his employer's decision when most of us, under parallel circumstances,  do not. The reason is that the vast majority of workers in the United States are not union members, whereas as Tom Brady  belongs to a powerful union.

The gap between the employment rights of union and nonunion workers in this country is a wide one. Where employers of union members must have a good reason ("just cause") to punish or fire their workers, employers of nonunion workers are permitted by law to fire "at-will," meaning on a whim, for no reason at all.

Nonetheless, there are major exceptions to the concept of "at will" penalties or termination . Primary among these is discrimination, which is strictly forbidden in a number of areas. Employees cannot be penalized or fired because of:

  • Race
  • Nationality or ethnicity
  • Religion
  • Age
  • Gender
  • Disability status

It should be noted, however, that, although gay marriage has recently been legalized in this county, in more than half the states employers are free to fire employees for sexual orientation. Laws supporting such discrimination, however, are  gradually changing as they are being vigorously challenged.

Other limitations on at-will dismissals include the following: employers may not fire workers for union organizing, whistleblowing, jury duty or filing for workers' compensation.

In spite of these restrictions, strange as it seems, it is perfectly legal for an employer to fire a worker for being insubordinate, obsequious, aloof or even overly friendly,  for wearing particular clothing or for sporting a particular hairstyle.

Is "at will" firing policy accepted in other parts of the world?

No, among the industrialized nations, the United States is the only one to have at-will employment laws. In most of the developed world, businesses must have valid reasons for firing an employee. The one state in this country that has dropped the at-will standard is Montana, bringing Montana more in line with typical international policies.

In spite of the relative rigidity of employment laws for nonunion workers in this country, knowledgeable and experienced attorneys can help you  challenge unfair disciplinary actions and firings at the workplace.  The dedicated attorneys at Pankey  & Horlock have a high rate of success in fighting for the  their clients in cases involving discrimination, withholding of overtime pay and other employment violations. If you are facing mistreatment in the workplace anywhere in the state of Georgia,  please get in touch us at 770-670-6250.


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The attorneys of Pankey & Horlock, LLC serve the entire state of Georgia, including Atlanta, Alpharetta, Auburn, Decatur, Doraville, Douglasville, Duluth, Kennesaw, Lawrenceville, Marietta, Stone Mountain, Dekalb County, Fulton County, Gwinnett County, and Cobb County, GA.



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