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Walmart protesters making noise about employee working conditions

The employer-employee relationship is an interesting one, especially when the relationship is not going well. Depending on where the employee works and the kinds of protections available to the employee, the employee may have a lot of say in their work life. For instance, where employees are covered by a collective bargaining agreement, thus making them a part of a labor union, the employee is protected from a number of things that unrepresented employees may be vulnerable to. Wages and employee benefits are just a couple of the things that a union contract will cover to ensure that employees are treated fairly.

Not all employees are covered by employment contracts or are in labor unions, which means that some individuals may not have a voice at work. On Black Friday, protesters were at a Walmart in Livonia, Michigan, demanding that Walmart employees make a living wage. A living wage is defined as the minimum income that a person needs to receive to satisfy basic needs. The argument is that Walmart does not compensate its employees fairly or adequately, hence the protest. Walmart of course does not agree with the protesters on this point.

In the United States, there are two categories when it comes to working: at-will employment and contract employment. Where there is a contract that covers the employee with respect to work and the terms and conditions of work, the employee cannot be fired for just any reason. However, at-will employment is when an employee can be fired for absolutely anything with the exception of cases covered by civil rights law or whistleblower law. Most employees that are in a labor union or are covered by a contract of some kind will have an easier time in court if they have been fired for any reason other than for cause. This may not be true for at-will employees.

The type of employer-employee relationship that exists will often times dictate how a court will handle an employment litigation situation.

Source:, "Protesters ask for higher wages for Walmart employees," David Veselenak, Nov. 28, 2014

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