Anyone else think "at will" work states are a joke? Is it just me?

Discussion in 'The Watercooler' started by MidwestMom, Jan 29, 2013.

  1. SomewhereOutThere

    SomewhereOutThere Well-Known Member

    For those who aren't sure what that is, it is most of the US states and it means any employer can fire you for any reason EXCEPT race, disability, gender or religion. And you have to be able to PROVE that you were discharged for these discriminatory reasons, so just knowing it's true isn't good enough. You need to have a smoking gun.

    Since getting fired for no reason at all and having no recourse I've looked into "at will" laws. They say straight out that you can be fired simply because the boss doesn't like your personality or because the boss had a fight with his wife and wants to take it out on you. You don't need to be written up. You don't need to be a poor worker. It is 100% up to the employer. And once fired, unless you are one of the 11% in a union, you have no legal recourse. It's rather amazing that Americans put up with laws like this in even more liberal states like Wisconsin and Illinois. I think we are the only industrialized nation that supposedly cares about human rights that gives an employer 100% control over his employee. I have talked to employment lawyers and I'm not exaggerating either.

    I'm really surprised that more people aren't ticked off that we are literally at the mercy of our employers and don't force our public servants to do something to change these laws. Even the Democrats never talk about this.

    On top of it, many employers fight unemployment insurance and sometimes win.

    Am I riled up all by myself or do other people think this is too much power for employers to have too? I'm thinking it must just be me because, really, it has never been a public issue. We just accept it or maybe some of us think it's fair...I personally think we should have to both sign some sort of contract when we are hired that holds us both accountable.
  2. witzend

    witzend Well-Known Member

    It's not a joke, it's a sick trick that big business has been playing with Americans for about 30 years now and calling it patriotic names like "Freedom Works", because hey - patriotism! And everyone knows that Unions are communist.

    Getting close to being vested in your pension? Too bad you work in an "at will" state. Boss wants a new fleet of cars but doesn't want to pay for it? Fire the highest paid employees and use their money. You can easily be replaced with temporary workers who get no benefits in an "at will" state, and anyone who needs to have your special training and stays on at a lower rate can just take on the extra work or get fired just like you. They will in a few years anyway. It's all about getting money for shareholders. Period.

    You just happen to be a woman or gay or old or ill and your boss doesn't like old gay women? He can fire you in an at will state so long as he doesn't say that he fired you because you're a woman or gay or old or ill.
  3. Hound dog

    Hound dog Nana's are Beautiful

    While I'll admit it's not fun to be on the receiving end when you did nothing to warrant being fired, it's to allow companies to keep control over their own businesses. And most do try to have valid reasons, or at least everyone I ever worked for did. Good employees can be difficult to find, bad ones can be just even harder to get rid of depending on the situation.

    I don't have an issue with it.
  4. InsaneCdn

    InsaneCdn Well-Known Member

    Canadian perspective? I cannot possibly imagine not having the Labour Relations Board. Not because employers can't find a way to do pretty much what they want anyway, but because it levels the playing field. The independent third party (LRB) does get in the way of employers claiming to fire for just cause - and then having no documentation. It usually doesn't preserve a job, but can reinstate benefits, force missing back-pay, those sorts of things. It's a quasi-judicial body (not a court, but the company must comply). Not perfect. But it does mean that even those without union representation (most of us) still have "somebody" with clout to speak for us when obvious wrong is being done.

    Employers need to be able to run their business... including managing the "culture", which sometimes means otherwise good employees turn out to not be a fit. They can be let go under various guises (most frequent is "position was eliminated"... they then create a new position with a different title and a slight twist to the job description). But they cannot be punished by the company by falsifying information and causing the person to not receive benefits... and when job-hunting, it's always nicer to be able to say "the position was eliminated"... even when we all know that it was probably a bit more "grey" than that.... it wasn't bad enough to "get fired".
  5. DammitJanet

    DammitJanet Well-Known Member Staff Member

    I have never lived anywhere but in an at will state and would hate to work for a union. Personally I would hate to have to pay dues just to work at a job.

    Some employers do have contracts with their employees that give them some rights as far as termination goes. Of course, some dont.

    I dont have a problem with it.
  6. donna723

    donna723 Well-Known Member

    "Boss wants a new fleet of cars but doesn't want to pay for it? Fire the highest paid employees and use their money.

    You should try working for the State! If the State needs money, they would NOT fire the highest paid employee. They would pick out five or six of the lowest paid employees, the ones who actually do the real work, and fire them! Same amount of money saved. Then the rest of the peons who did not get fired have to double up and cover for the the ones who had been dismissed. The ones at the top seem to be bulletproof while the workerbees at the bottom are expendable.
  7. DammitJanet

    DammitJanet Well-Known Member Staff Member

    That happened with the county too.
  8. SomewhereOutThere

    SomewhereOutThere Well-Known Member

    It's not a privately owned business. It's Head Start, dependant on federal dollars and my taxes.

    I was a good employee. In three and a half years I never called in sick once, I always filled in when needed, and I never had any complaints against me until this one bus driver complained...the other bus drivers I worked with liked me. The parents and kids liked me. But this is about ALL American workers.

    There are a lot of people out of work. They'll take any job. So it's never hard to replace a worker. And to the one who spoke of pensions, my mom was at a company for twenty years and fired at age 64 so that t hey didn't have to pay her pension. She tried to fight it, but was told her state was "at will." I wonder if anyone would think it was ok if it actually happened to them or their spouse...
  9. SomewhereOutThere

    SomewhereOutThere Well-Known Member

    It's just as bad to work for the state. That's my point. Why are we the only country who gives workers no protection? Why should we have to join a union to be treated fairly in the workplace?
  10. buddy

    buddy New Member

    My mom lost her retirement from the u of m in her fifties when they did layoffs, she was there 8 years!

    Unions are not great either. But at least some protection. I think at will goes too far.
  11. AnnieO

    AnnieO Shooting from the Hip

    I work in at at-will state but am also in a union... So I have a slightly different perspective, I guess.

    My position was "eliminated" a few years back, when I was the only office person... I was 22 and jobless, and of course a couple of months later I had to call so they would know where to send my W-2 and there was someone in that position! I found out years later through a friend of a friend the reason I was fired was that I wasn't completing ALL of my job duties. Of course, the ones I wasn't completing were, well, illegal and immoral. And looking back, I should've seen it coming...

    Now, however - I was hired in April 2003 at this company at $9.53 an hour (and the contract stated no increases until 2009). In September of that year we unionized. I actually was one of 3 people that voted against it; but we were overruled. So what did I get out of it? Well, a steady pay increase, for one: I am now making more than twice what I started at. We received $350 a month health & welfare allowance, which was either used for health insurance or went to our 401(k) - we could not use it for private insurance premiums. That changed, and so did the amount - nearly $1000 a month now.

    I pay about $50 a month in union dues. I have access to free legal advice, plus a slew of other stuff I've never used. We never got personal/sick leave before - we get 40 hours a year now. Vacation topped out at 2 weeks, after 10 years - I get 18 days this year.

    So, truthfully - I have a lot better deal now with the union. Do I want to pay dues? No. Is it worth $600 a year? HECK YEAH!
  12. PatriotsGirl

    PatriotsGirl Well-Known Member

    This is the current situation that is really chapping my cheeks at my work right now. We have leasing agents that are making six figures a year but it is those of us that are making far less that work our butts off doing crazy hours. I get to work from home full time, but I am also working a minimum of 12 hours a day. And I am salary, so when you divide my pay up by the hours that I am actually working, I am probably making minimum wage. I am actually at the point where I think I am going to give up working from home and look for another job. I am tired of listening to these whiny agents making more than double what I do and do much less work...

    As far as the at will state - Georgia is, too. It has never bothered me or affected me. It is the above that really gets to me. The people who make the most money do the least work. I swear...
  13. SuZir

    SuZir Well-Known Member

    As many of you know, I live in the area there workers tend to have more rights than about anywhere. That does cause problems at times. For example for small business the bad hiring decision can be really bad, because it is very difficult to get rid of even very bad worker. We do have a trial period of few months though in the beginning of an employment when employer or employee can terminate contract immediately without reason (but not because of certain reasons.) But after that, employee has to be written up three times for clear errors before they can be let go. Or has to do something rather serious (violence, being drunk at work there you use drive or use heavy machinery etc.) if let go because of financial reason, company can not hire anyone else to same type of work in next six months. If they need someone, they have to offer job back to one they let go.

    Our retirement funds are collected from our all employers from age 20 on, there are big trust to handle that money, so that doesn't really matter from employers perspective. At times employers are in the bind with bad worker, who just isn't making any clear errors and then they may fire them illegally. After that, if employee takes it to court, employer has to pay damages, usually half a year pay or bit more, but sometimes that is cheaper for the company than keeping bad employee. And at times workers are smoked out. In many workplaces workers are given much more slack than law requires (let's face it, I shouldn't be writing this at work, but my employer couldn't care less what I do in office, when I just do my work well and in time) and if they want to get rid of someone, they just become sticklers to the rules. Sooner or later worker usually just starts to look for nicer job.

    Our system is very opposite of USA and your politicians like to call us socialists or even communist and use those as curse words. But let's face it, it works for us and we don't really want to change it even while there are kinks. In worldwide perspective we are filthy rich. USA model is not an only possible one even for a wealthy country. It is political decision and in democracy those are, in the end, up to citizen.
  14. JJJ

    JJJ Active Member

    I live in an at-will state and I am the daughter and granddaughter of union workers. My husband is the son and grandson of non-union small business owners. So I have lived both sides. I think there needs to be balance. My family has been stuck working with horrible employees because the union fought every firing, no matter what. My dad tried to take on the union and get a co-worker fired because they were dangerously incompetent. He lost and the guy died just weeks later when he made a critical error and fell into the machinery. It broke my dad's heart that he couldn't save this man. But, overall, the unions are needed in certain fields.

    As a small business owner, it hurts to fire someone. My father in law had to fire a worker last year and he was physically ill from the stress of it. And this was a poor worker! At husband's company, there are less than 20 employees. If someone doesn't "fit" it will make for an unpleasant environment for all. They need to be allowed to hire/fire at will because sometimes it is a legitimate to fire someone just because their personality is not a fit for that company.
  15. InsaneCdn

    InsaneCdn Well-Known Member

    Yes. BUT... in that case, it should be a neutral termination that doesn't affect unemployment etc. There should be a difference between "not a fit" and "not fit to be employed"
  16. Californiablonde

    Californiablonde Well-Known Member

    I know a lot of you are against unions, but I am so glad I have mine. At my job you have to be written up three times to be fired. And the union makes sure I get my cost of living raises each year, althought due to the economy they skipped last year. But most years I get it. I barely pay a cent in union dues and what I do pay is totally worth it to me.
  17. donna723

    donna723 Well-Known Member

    As State employees, we were not even allowed to breathe the word "union"! It was grounds for instant dismissal. We did have an "employees association" that serves some of the same purposes, just can't call it a "union". Supposedly mostof us had Civil Service protection but that only goes so far. And if you file a grievance against the State for unfair treatment, the "employees association" will provide you with an attorney or an advisor once it reaches a certain level. But we've all seen how they can bend these rules enough to pretty much do whatever they want to. The old job title shuffle is one of them. If there's no money for State employee raises that year, the favored ones still get theirs. They keep doing the exact same job but their job title is changed to one with a higher pay grade and they get a nice salary increase. Another thing they've done is to eliminate certain people's positions (laying them off), then create another almost duplicate position with a slightly different job title ...then they have the nerve to tell these people that they will graciously allow them to interview ... FOR THEIR OWN JOB!!! It happens all the time and Civil Service can't do a thing about it! They can do it to you whenever they darned well want to and even having a lot of seniority won't help you.
  18. SomewhereOutThere

    SomewhereOutThere Well-Known Member

    Yup. Seniority can hurt you if they feel like firing you before you get your pension at age 64. Really...we need more balance in our system. Wish I had been in a union. Head Start would have never been able to demote me with no warnings and no reason other than the word of one newish bus driver who had a bad reputation. I'd gladly pays the dues to get protection. Being unemployed is more costly than paying union dues.
  19. JJJ

    JJJ Active Member

    father in law could have fired for cause but he hated firing someone so much, he called it a "layoff" so the employee qualified for unemployment insurance.

    In the US, each fired employee that gets unemployment insurance costs the company money. That is the incentive to not hire/fire frequently. A company without any UI claims in the last few years pay 3% of their payroll in UI taxes. A company with a large number of UI claims could be paying roughly 20% of their payroll each quarter. The exact numbers varyby state but that is the rough idea.
  20. JJJ

    JJJ Active Member

    And yes, being fired under the 'at-will' law does allow the employee to collect UI. Only firings 'for cause' can block UI, but the employee can challenge that and the company has to prove the misbehavior (the ex-employee does not have to prove innocence).