What does ‘Right to work’ mean in North Carolina?

Q. I always hear North Carolina is a “right to work” state. Does that mean there are limitations on how or why I may be fired? Does that have anything to do with “employment at will”?

A. Although they sound similar, “right to work” and “employment at will” are different concepts that do not contradict each other. “Right to work” generally means that membership in a recognized union may not be a condition of hire or continued employment. Thus, if your workplace is unionized in North Carolina, you cannot be required to join the union.

“Employment at will” is a common-law concept that provides—absent a written employment agreement or collective bargaining agreement—that either you or your employer may terminate the employment relationship at will, at any time, with or without notice and for any reason, as long as the reason is not made unlawful by statute (such as the federal Civil Rights Act) or other laws.