Employment at Will and Right to Work are often mixed up and confused.

Here’s a quick overview of both and how to distinguish them from each other.

Employment at Will

Think of it as: You can be fired without cause

Employment at will means that an employer can terminate an employee for any reason they want, as long as it’s not an illegal cause. Good cause, bad cause, or no cause at all, you can get laid off.
If you crushed your recent TPS report, you can still get fired. If you mailed it in and did a poor job, you can get fired. The other way to look at it is that you, as the employee, can also leave the employment relationship without cause.


The only cases you can’t get fired for are illegal ones, such as for race, sex, religion, age, etc. Another common exception to at-will employment is if the written contract of employment is for a defined duration.

Similarly, the practice of giving two-weeks’ notice is not required by law (as long as your employment contract doesn’t have a specified duration). Then again, remember the impacts and consequences of not doing so, such as asking for a future reference from your previous employer.

Here in Georgia we are an at-will employment state.

Right to Work

Think of it as: You can’t be forced to join a Union

Georgia is also a Right to Work state. Right to Work is often confused with At-Will Employment but is much different.

In essence Right to Work means that you can’t be forced to join a union to work at your company.

right to work picketing union

Why Right to Work Laws Exist

Proponents of Right to Work laws argue they are pro-business. By not allowing union mandated membership, companies can be more competitive. In theory unions hurt economic growth so in turn the economy as a whole gains from a freer business environment with things like more competition, more jobs, etc.

On the other hand, opponents of Right to Work laws argue that without unions, employees see decreased wages and benefits. In addition, in theory companies maintain too much control, as compared to the employee, in a Right to Work state.