Is Texas a Right-to-Work State?

FT Contributor  | 

The federal government allows individual states to decide whether to implement the right-to-work law. Some states have decided to impose this law while others do not enforce it on employers doing business in the state. Texas is a right-to-work state so all employers must follow the law. In addition to the right-to-work law, Texas implements other legislation that helps protect workers’ rights.

What Is Right to Work?

In a right-to-work state like Texas, employees are free to work for a unionized employer without actually joining the union. Employees have the option of paying dues to be a union member. However, if they choose not to pay these dues, they may still be employed by the unionized employer without penalty or repercussions.

Employees who work for a unionized employer in a right-to-work state but decide not to join the union still have union coverage without paying dues. However, if these employees need to utilize union services, such as legal representation, they’re still responsible for paying the costs associated with these services.

Is Texas a Right-to-Work State?

Texas is a right-to-work state so this law is enforced for unionized employers. A potential employee’s union status must have no bearing on whether the candidate is hired. Employees who choose not to pay union dues cannot be terminated due to their lack of participation in the labor union.

Is Texas an At-Will State?

Texas is also an at-will employment state, which is different legislation than the right-to-work law. At-will employment means that an employer may terminate the working relationship with an employee at any time without warning and for any reason.

Under this law, employees also have the right to quit their jobs for any or no reason and without warning.

While right-to-work laws are directly related to labor union membership and employee rights, at-will employment legislation refers to termination of employment. The only exceptions to the at-will employment law are employees who are under implied or written contract. If there’s a contract in place, the employee must adhere to the terms outlined in the contract and the employer must allow the employee to serve the length of the contract.

When Can You Be Fired in Texas?

Since Texas is an at-will employment state, you may assume you can be terminated at any moment for any reason. However, to abide by anti-discrimination laws, your employer cannot terminate your employment due to race, religion, gender, or physical disability.

In most cases, employers issue warnings for performance or other misconduct before terminating employment. Reasons you may be terminated include the following:

  • Your employer is downsizing and you’ve been laid off.
  • Your position is no longer needed within the company.
  • You’re consistently tardy or leaving before your shift is over.
  • Your work performance is lacking and unacceptable.
  • You’re caught stealing from your employer.

If you’ve been let go from your job due to a reason that wasn’t your fault, your employer may offer you severance pay.

Other Texas Labor Laws

In addition to right-to-work and at-will employment legislation, Texas imposes labor laws that are designed to keep workers safe and protected from unfair treatment by their employers.

Texas State Minimum Wage

The Texas state minimum wage is the same as the federal minimum wage at $7.25 per hour. Employers cannot pay their employees less than the minimum wage, with a few exceptions. Tipped workers may earn as low as $2.13 per hour and the minimum wage doesn’t apply to minor workers or salespersons.

Texas Right to Bargain

Texas right-to-work laws also include a “right to bargain” clause. This clause allows employees to negotiate salary, benefits, and other working terms directly with their employers. Workers’ rights to bargain working conditions directly with employers cannot be interfered with by a labor union or denied by the employer.

Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA)

The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) enforces the minimum wage. It also requires employers to offer overtime pay to employees who work more than 40 hours per week. These additional hours must be paid at time and a half. This legislation also requires employers to pay men and women equally if they’re doing the same job and have the same experience and education.

State Discrimination and Harassment Law

State discrimination and harassment laws are enforced by the Texas Workforce Commission (TWC). They prohibit employers from discriminating against job candidates and employees based on their age, gender, race, nationality, religion, or due to physical or mental disabilities. This legislation also prohibits employers from firing or retaliating against employees who bring legal action against employers.

Child Labor Laws

Texas enforces strict child labor laws to protect minors who work in the state. Children under 14 are not permitted to legally work in the state. Minors who are 14 or 15 years old cannot work during school hours and are not permitted to work more than 18 hours in a school week. Minors under 18 cannot perform jobs that include hazardous duties, such as coal mining or firefighting.

State Civil Rights Laws

Similar to the discrimination and harassment law, Texas civil rights laws protect workers from discriminatory behaviors. The TWC enforces these civil rights laws and ensures employees are treated fairly throughout the hiring process, while working, and during termination.

Employers are prohibited from refusing to hire employees based on their race, religion, age, gender, or nationality. Workers also cannot be treated unfairly in the workplace or wrongfully terminated due to these characteristics.

Pregnancy Discrimination Act

Businesses with 15 employees or more are required to adhere to the Pregnancy Discrimination Act in Texas. This legislation requires employers to treat pregnant employees fairly and to provide reasonable accommodations as needed, such as a new office chair or less physical job requirements.

Unemployment Laws

The TWC also administers the unemployment insurance program in Texas. Workers who were terminated through no fault of their own may qualify to receive financial compensation through the program as they search for new employment.

Workers’ Compensation Laws

In Texas, employers are not required to obtain workers’ compensation insurance coverage. However, they must legally notify employees if they do not have this coverage and employees may elect to cover themselves. Employees may also file lawsuits against employers if they’re injured on the job and no workers’ compensation insurance coverage is available.

Texas is a right-to-work state and enforces the employment at-will law. Additional legislation, such as the FLSA, protects workers’ rights and requires employers to treat their employees fairly.


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