AnnaMarie Houlis
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Here's everything you need to know about the right-to-work law, at-will employment and these mean in Texas.

What is right to work?

The right-to-work law, which is also known as the Workplace Freedom or Workplace Choice law, is a law that grants workers the right to choose whether or not they'd like to join a union in their workplace. Likewise, it also makes it optional for workers already in unionized workplaces to pay union dues and other membership fees that are required for union representation (whether they're involved in the union or not).

What is at-will employment?

Every state with the exception of Montana is an at-will employment state. Under the at-will employment policy, either the employer or the employee can terminate employment at any time for any reason (unless it's illegal and proven wrongful termination, which is hard to do) without consequence — unless the employee has a contract or a union agreement that states otherwise.

Is Texas a right to work state?

Texas is indeed a right-to-work state. Therefore, under the Texas Labor Code, "a person cannot be denied employment because of membership or non-membership in a labor union or other labor organization," according to the official page of Ken Paxton, Attorney General of Texas. "Texas laws protect employees from threats, force, intimidation, or coercion for choosing to either participate or not participate in a union. In other words, the choice of whether to join a labor union is yours; you may not be required to join or pay dues to a union as a condition of employment, nor may you be denied employment because you have joined a union."

If an employer has entered into a collective bargaining agreement with a union that requires employees to make payments to, or on behalf of, a labor union under the agreement as a condition of employment, then that employer may be violating the right-to-work law of Texas.

If you are an employee in Texas and feel that you are required to make payments to, or on the behalf of, a labor union that may or may not feel obliged (or be forced) to join, you can report your situation by contacting the OAG here.

Can you be fired for any reason in Texas?

Texas is an at-will state, which means that you can be fired for any just reason at any time. Again, proving wrongful termination isn't always an easy feat, but your employer can only fire you for legal reasons.

What are important Texas labor laws?

Here are three important labor laws in Texas of which you should be aware.

1. Texas Right to Bargain

The Texas Labor Code forbids a union or any organization from prohibiting individual employees and union members alike from bargaining with their employer on an individual basis. The law states: "A person's inherent right to work and to bargain freely with the person's employer, individually or collectively, for terms of the person's employment may not be denied or infringed by law or by any organization."

2. Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA)

"The FLSA establishes minimum wage, overtime pay, recordkeeping and youth employment standards affecting employees in the private sector and in Federal, State and local governments," according to the U.S. Department of Labor. "Covered nonexempt workers are entitled to a minimum wage of not less than $7.25 per hour effective July 24, 2009. Overtime pay at a rate not less than one and one-half times the regular rate of pay is required after 40 hours of work in a workweek."

3. Pregnancy Discrimination Act

"If a business has fewer than 15 employees (counting anyone who works for the business, performing services for pay, for each working day in each of twenty or more calendar weeks in the current or preceding calendar year), it is not covered by any employment law relating to pregnancy or disability, and the business would be free to handle the situation in any way it deems appropriate," according to the Texas Workforce Commission. "Of course, a business not covered by such laws would still want to treat its employees as fairly and consistently as possible, if for no other reason than to minimize complaints, unnecessary turnover, and the risk of unfavorable publicity...

"If the business has 15 or more employees, it is covered by state and federal pregnancy and disability discrimination laws, which require non-discriminatory treatment of pregnant employees and reasonable accommodation for employees with disabilities. Disability laws can come into play for a pregnant employee if the pregnancy becomes complicated and results in something that can turn into a disability, such as gestational diabetes."

What are some resources for Texas employees?

To learn more about employment laws in Texas, check out these resources:

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AnnaMarie Houlis is a feminist, a freelance journalist and an adventure aficionado with an affinity for impulsive solo travel. She spends her days writing about women’s empowerment from around the world. You can follow her work on her blog, HerReport.org, and follow her journeys on Instagram @her_report, Twitter @herreportand Facebook.

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