Is there a difference between right-to-work and at-will? Yes, there is. These terms should not be used interchangeably.

In this article, we will take a closer look at the difference between the two concepts to help you have a better understanding of them as they pertain to employment law, so read on to learn what you need to know.

Understanding the Difference between Right-to-Work and At-Will

Many employers and employees in the United States confuse these two terms, which are common in the context of employment law. They assume they can use them interchangeably because they both refer to freedoms of employees and employers. However, while the two concepts do have some things in common, they are two different things.

The best way to understand the difference between right-to-work and at-will is to simply define both concepts so you can know what they are and, perhaps most importantly, what they are not.

At-Will Employment

Every state – with the exception of Montana – presumes that all employees have entered into an at-will employment contract with their employers. This essentially means that employers can legally:

  • Terminate employees;
  • Add or revoke benefits;
  • Raise or lower wages; and
  • Change general conditions of employment. 

Under Florida law, employers can take the above actions at any time, based on almost any reason, and are not required to notify employees in advance.

However, employers are not the only ones who can legally take certain actions. The other side of the at-will employment coin is that, generally, employees have the freedom to resign from a job position at any time, for any reason, without notifying employers in advance. While at-will employment has gained somewhat of a bad reputation in the business world, this common law doctrine provides employees with some benefits. 

This at-will presumption, however, can be overcome by employment agreements. For instance, an employer could negotiate an employment contract that does not allow termination without cause. However, if there is no written agreement in place between a particular employer and an employee, then the State of Florida presumes the relationship between the parties is at will.


Right-to-work laws have been passed in 28 states so far. These laws allow individuals to accept job offers without having to join a collective bargaining unit or union, which means no one can force them to pay union dues, and their unwillingness to participate in some kind of collective bargaining agreement cannot have any kind of impact on their employment.

The State of Florida is one of those 28 states. Its right-to-work laws apply to both public and private sector employees. Employers that are required to work with unions or collective bargaining units may have employments agreements that displace the at-will presumption. For example, a particular union might negotiate with an employer that they can only terminate members when there is a cause. If said employer resides in a right-to-work state like Florida, the employees who benefit from that particular agreement may not be compelled to pay union dues.

I Help Business Owners Succeed

Understanding the law as it relates to right-to-work and at-will employment before you make your first hire is critical. Failing to do so will get you in trouble down the road. If you are in the process of starting the business of your dreams, before you start hiring people, work with an experienced business lawyer to make sure you do not make any legal mistakes.

I can be that lawyer.

I help business owners succeed. How? By protecting them from the most dangerous disease in the business world: legal mistake syndrome. When it comes to running a business, compliance is critical. I can help you avoid legal mistakes in Florida.

Get in touch with me today by calling (305) 921-0976 or email me at [email protected] to schedule a consultation.