VIRGINIA, A “RIGHT TO WORK STATE” 150 150 Lauren Ellerman

I was watching a great episode of Law & Order last night (I know – cliche) when a political ad came on for the Va. Governor’s race. On candidate said his focus as governor would be to strengthen Virginia’s “RIGHT TO WORK LAWS” and to get more jobs in the Commonwealth.

That is code for strengthen laws that protect EMPLOYERS and NOT employees.

Under the Virginia Code, Right to work really means you don’t have to join a union, but if you want to, you can’t be fired for it. The phrase however, is used all the time however, in reference to Virginia employment rights in general.

So what are your Employment rights in VA?

We have already discussed your right to join a union.

Any others? NOT MANY. Virginia law is very pro employer – that is what the candidate was getting at, strengthen the pro employer laws.

Under Federal law, you can’t be fired because of your: race, color, religion, national origin, gender, or because you are pregnant or disabled.

You can be fired for basically any other reason.

So what did this commercial mean, that the Candidate wants to strengthen Virginia’s “RIGHT TO WORK LAWS.” It means nothing. If he had wanted to create a large scope of protected classes for which you cannot be fired (like sexual orientation, expression, etc) he would have said so.

Right to work DOES NOT protect you if you are fired, unless you were fired for joining the union. It does not create any rights or obligations upon termination. It is a legal phrase being misused to communicate that employees have rights in the Commonwealth.

About the author

Lauren Ellerman

In 2011, Lauren Ellerman was named "Young Lawyer of the Year" by the Roanoke Bar Association for her work in the community. To speak with Lauren about your personal injury case, contact her at

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