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Ooops! That Doesn’t Mean What You Think It Means

At Will vs. Right to Work

By Sarah Zasso, SHRM-SCP, SPHR

I was recently at the SC SHRM Conference and attorneys with Nexsen Pruet presented a question to the attendees:

 True or False:  Because South Carolina is a right to work state, an employer may terminate an employee at any time for any reason, or for no reason – and without notice.

I immediately called out, “It’s a trick question!”  Why is it a trick question, you ask?  Because “Right to Work” has nothing to do with termination rights.  “At Will” Employment does.

What’s the Difference?

“Right to Work” states prohibit unions and employers from requiring union membership as a condition of employment.

“At Will” states allow employers and employees (without a written contract) to terminate employment at any time for any reason, with or without cause, and without notice.  As long as the reason for termination is not discriminatory or illegal.

Although the “Right to Work” and “At Will” doctrines are often referenced incorrectly, they are important facets of employment law and it’s critical that employers know the difference.

Do You Operate in an “At Will” State?

Click HERE to find out.

Wondering if you can fire an employee just because you don’t like them?  You are in an “At Will” state, so why not, right?  Maybe.  Look for next month’s article for more information regarding reality vs. legality of “At Will” employment.


This article is for general information purposes only.  I am not an attorney; accordingly, the information presented is not legal advice, and is not to be acted on as such.


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