What do you think when you hear the phrase “right to work” state? Well, I used to think it meant Virginians have protected rights at the work place, and that worker’s rights come first.
Ha. I was wrong.
The phrase is actually related to unions – that they can’t fire you because you join, or belong to a union… but the term has taken on many meanings since the code was adopted to protect members or nonmembers of unions.
Virginia in fact, has very little regulation regarding rights of workers. You cannot fire someone in Virginia because of their gender, age (sometimes), race or religion… (That is also federal law), but you can fire them for sexual orientation, because you don’t like the car they drive, or because you feel like it. While many counties have specific laws regarding employment discrimination, most do not, which means under state law, you don’t actually have to have a reason to fire someone, and poor job performance is not required either.
Why does this relate to non-competes? Well, because many employees will sign an agreement, and then after the fact, realize it may effect their right or ability to work in the future. Then they might lose their job, and feel like they are really in trouble – fired, no recourse, and then contractually bound not to do anything else.
SO – if presented with a non-compete, have an attorney look at it before hand. There may (or may not) be room to negotiate. Better to negotiate when you are a prized future employee, than someone who has been asked to leave.