What can my union do for me if I am fired from my job? While the union cannot protect your job, the major benefits of labor unions is they can protect you from unlawful firings and fight your case in court, depending upon specific union offerings.
Most employment is "at-will." Employers have the right to “hire and fire" but not arbitrarily. Legislation such as the Equal Employment Opportunities guidelines, Americans with Disabilities Act, Family and Medical Leave Act, Fair Labor Standards Act, Age Discrimination Act, and others place some restrictions on employers regarding firing employees.
Such acts prohibit employees from firing employees:
- Based on color, age, sex, religion, race, nationality, or disability
- On leave per the Family and Medical Leave Act entitlement
- For refusing to ignore illegal company practices
- For refusing to yield to sexual advances or other non work related matters
- For joining trade unions, or for following the orders of the union
The Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) Act requires companies employing more than one-hundred employees and firing half of them to provide sixty days advance notification.
Many companies fire employees to avoid paying benefits that may accrue if the employee stays on the job for an extensive time. Although the employee can challenge such terminations as a "breach of good faith," there is no federal law to safeguard employee rights in this regard.
When companies fire employees without heeding to such considerations, the employee may sue the company for wrongful termination, or approach relevant agencies such as Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The employer would then have to prove in court strong grounds such as employee’s performance, misconduct, or business reasons, for the firing. The trade union can help by checking whether the firing is valid legally, and if not, by taking up the case and advocating for the employee in the court and other forums. Unions can argue possible offers of job security in employment contracts and company manuals, and challenge the stated cause.