VIRGINIA RIGHT TO WORK STATE 150 150 Lauren Ellerman

I heard it again yesterday.

PROSPECTIVE CLIENT: “They can’t fire me for refusing to sign a non-compete agreement. Virginia is a Right to work state.”


ME: “Sir, the phrase Right to work is one of the most mis-understood cliches in the Commonwealth. It does not actually mean you have a right to work, or any legal protection from being fired should you refuse to jump through employer hoops. All it legally means, is that you can’t be fired for refusing to pay union dues.”

PROSPECTIVE CLIENT: “That can’t be right – I have heard for years that Virginia is a RIGHT TO WORK STATE.”

ME AGAIN: “It is, but all that means is that Virginia has adopted provisions of the Taft-Hartley Act, which prohibits agreements between trade unions and employers making membership or payment of union dues or “fees” a condition of employment, either before or after hiring.”

PROSPECTIVE CLIENT: “So you are saying if I refuse to sign this terrible agreement with a ridiculous non-compete, they can fire me and there is nothing I can do.”

ME: “Well, yes. They can fire you for that. They can fire you because they don’t like the color t-shirt you wore to work yesterday or the fact you are a Redskin fan. And no, there is no legal right that you have to sue simply because you were fired.”

This is my favorite part of the prospective client conversation –

PROSPECTIVE CLIENT: “So I am basically screwed.”

ME: “Well, no. You have some options. (1) Try to negotiate terms of the contract; (2) Refuse to sign and see what happens; (3) Quit and look for another job; (4) Have a conversation with said boss about how this situation leaves you few options.

At this point client usually hangs up, shocked.

So please, VIRGINIANS – don’t be surprised. You have few rights, but you do have some options. Let us help – we can review the contract, discuss and draft new language, be your advocate with boss (if the situation allows) etc.

Better to know your options, than not.

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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