Who Knew Wearing Orange Shirts To Work Is A Fireable Offense?

Down in Florida, they love their oranges. Not just the citrus fruit, but at one law firm, 14 employees loved the color enough to all wear it to work one day. Too bad management had a bee in its bonnet over the color-coordinating and fired them all for donning orange en masse.

ABC News says the group of employees claim they had established a tradition of celebrating payday Friday with a happy hour outing, and wore the orange shirts to indicate they were a group while out celebrating.

The law firm where they worked wasn’t happy with the outfit choice, claiming the workers were wearing the shirts as a form of protest. Management called them into a conference room and then fired the lot.

Florida and other states are “at will” employment states, which means anyone can be fired for any legal reason whatsoever — even if your employer just doesn’t like the color of your shirt. The only exception is wearing something to protest working conditions.

Thank my lucky stars cerulean is okay by the bosses. It’s my favorite.

*Thanks to Kim for the tip!

Florida Law Firm Fires Workers For Wearing Orange [ABC News]

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  1. MutantMonkey says:

    Other than looking like prison inmates, I’m not sure what the issue was… unless this is some statement towards companies using healthcare benefits to keep employees hired at low wages making the job feel like a prison.

    • FilthyHarry says:

      Mgmt probably just freaked at the staff being coordinated. Figured the next step was revolution.

    • jefeloco says:

      Around my office we all make fun of things that shouldn’t be mentioned in polite company if more than two people show up wearing incredibly similar clothing.

      Sometimes it’s pared down to just asking if they were all on a conference call when picking out their clothes, sometimes not :)

  2. az123 says:

    Somehow I suspect there was a bit more to this story than is being reported…. Most offices would be highly disrupted by loosing 14 people at one time and as dumb as managers can be, turning your office upside down just on the whim that people wore orange shirts seems very irrational.

    Also if you read the story, they had a tradition of wearing the orange shirts, so I would suspect that they had been informed previously about the issue… after all they worked for lawyers, who I am sure did a fine CYA job

    • u1itn0w2day says:

      One thing I’ve learned about working in Florida is that there alot business who cater to the money crowd. If their customers are suit and tie that’s what they want you to wear.

      If nothing else it shows unity. Could management get the same employees to wear the exact same colors on the exact same day without a precise uniform requirement.

      • Darsynia says:

        As far as I could tell from the articles about this, it seems to be mostly support staff that were involved, as opposed to lawyers.

    • bwcbwc says:

      Florida is an “at will” state for labor so no need to CYA unless they violate Federal law.

  3. Haplo9000 says:

    Maybe they were all University of Tennessee fans and the firm’s boss is a Florida grad?

    • Major Tom Coming Home says:

      Unless it was sarcasm that went over my head, you probably mean Florida State Fan… The University of Florida’s colors are Orange and Blue, Florida State is Garnet and Gold. The boss can’t be a University of South Florida alum though, because if we was he wouldn’t be such a jerk :)

    • rushevents says:

      Woo Hoo! Go Vols!

  4. failurate says:

    Is the boss Irish Catholic?

    • libwitch says:

      I think that was a bit of the case – if I recall, they did this the day before St. Patricks, day, and they didnt exactly have a record of doing this before (despite employees protests it was a tradition). I remember reading this story originally over st. patricks day weekend

      • zibby says:

        Yeah, I’m thinking this was a pretty transparent “F you” to some higher-up and now they’re just playing dumb.

    • witeowl says:

      My thought as well. And, considering how few Americans are aware of the orange vs. green thing as it relates to St. Patty’s day, it’s entirely possible that one employee decided to encourage the whole group as a “laugh” and thirteen people genuinely have no idea what happened.

  5. Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

    Wait wait wait wait wait.

    The law firm thinks that the workers were wearing orange as a form of protest for working conditions, but Florida’s one exception to at-will termination is wearing something to protest working conditions.

    So, does the entire group have a valid wrongful termination lawsuit on their hands? Did I misread this?

    • Cat says:

      That’s the way I read it, too.

      The best course of action for the terminated employees is to say it was a protest of working conditions, whether it was or not.

      On that basis, it would at least qualify them for unemployment benefits.

    • az123 says:

      They failed by claiming it was because of happy hour… had they been smart when the managers had them in they would have claimed it was in protest to the working conditions

      • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

        Actually, it shouldn’t matter what the true intent was. The employer believed it was due to a protest of worker conditions, so they violated the law.

        It’s the same as when undercover police use fake money to ensnare someone involved in an attempted crime. It doesn’t matter the money is fake, what matters is the intent of the criminal.

        In this case, the employer had the intent of taking an action that was illegal, even if it technically wasn’t.

        • Straspey says:

          But even if that’s true, and the fired employees file a lawsuit – it will still be incumbent upon them to demonstrate in court the exact nature of the working conditions which would have been the cause for the protest –

          And also to show that there was an on-going pattern whereby those conditions were persistent over a period of time — PLUS – a documented trail of previous complaints through the proper office channels (HR, union rep, etc.) which were ignored by management.

          IMHO, The protest argument, while valid on its face, will not hold up in this case.

          • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

            Again, it’s the intent that matters, not the specifics of the “protesting”

            The law doesn’t say employers are free to fire protesters as long as the presting is for something dumb. Any reason, even if it completely fabricated in the employer’s mind, is illegal.

            But I will agree proving intent is difficult, unless they said to them the reason for the termination.

          • crispyduck13 says:

            Would that really be necessary for them to prove they were protesting? The employer committing the illegal act should not be vindicated because they acted on false information. It’s the illegal action that is in question, regardless of whether the basis for that action was technically correct.

            Suppose some of my coworkers started the rumor that I was gay, even though in reality I’m not. If I was then fired for being gay would my employer be on the right side of the law simply because I’m admittedly straight? I’m still fired, and they still did that based on perceived sexual orientation, which is illegal in almost every state.

    • Mike says:

      Actually, protesting working conditions is protected speech at the national level. You can’t be fired for doing that anywhere in the country. The comment that it was some form of protest opens the door for a lawsuit, especially if it was made by the employer. They may be good lawyers, but perhaps not in labor law.

      • rushevents says:

        ummm yes you can.

        It bothers me that we only have 2nd hand info on this story – but just to be clear… as long as they didn’t use the employees’ race, religion, age, handicaps, sex or sexual orientation as the basis for their termination they can terminate easily without fear of any real retaliation.

        Any lawsuit WILL be dismissed, any EEOC complaint will not be accepted.

        The most they are on the hook for is a possible increase in their unemployment insurance premium.

        But I love how all of these armchair lawyers always say “That’s Illegal!”

        (HR Manager with LOTS of experience in this matter over here)

        • Shadowman615 says:

          So are you saying the second-to-last paragraph of this article (specifically the part about protesting working conditions) is not correct?

    • Doubting thomas says:

      MB’s summary and the ABC News article both make it sound like the law firm execs said something about the protest, but of you go to the original Sun-Sentinel article all the law firm said was “No comment”, all the bits about a protest came from recently fired employees who have a quite obvious axe to grind. Not saying it didn’t happen that way, just advising a grain of salt.

    • Clyde Barrow says:

      From what I have read on some news sites and at this link, “at will” does not mean “at any time” regardless. They can fire you for not following procedures/policy or they could be held liable for discrimination or wrongful termination claim. See link.

      http://ppspublishers.com/articles/atwill_terminate.htm

      An interesting read on this subject.

  6. Suisei says:

    Living in a state that has the same at-will law keeps me in constant fear of losing my job every single day, even when I have stellar performance. Hell, some big wig could take my performance as a threat to HIS position and sack me just to save his behind. There’s no such thing as job security these days. If only the employee protection laws were more powerful and stood more for the little guy instead of big business or business in general to balance things, I would be more happier.

    • TuxthePenguin says:

      In the spirit of disclosure, I’m an employer of about 20. But if you’re in fear of losing your job every day, you need to find a new one. I could walk out of this office and make a public sacrifice of one of them if I wanted, but I don’t. Scared employees don’t work well.

      Now, I have had to fire someone who simply was not working out. It was nice to just tell him “I’m going to give you a month’s pay, but do not come back” rather than some long process. I guess I could even live with an annual employment contract for some guarantee, but I’d darn well pay you less in that case since I might have to pay you even if I don’t want you around.

    • Package Man says:

      As en employer I definitely prefer at-will. It’s MY business so I should have complete control of my costs which include payroll. If for some reason I deem an employee is no longer beneficial to my company, I shouldn’t need a government approved reason to release that employee to benefit my company. The job was created by and belongs to the employer, not the employee.

      • Suisei says:

        Heh, the way you lot sound, I’ll bet you would just LOVE to be legally able to sack someone because of race, gender, religion, colour, sexual orientation, or any other protected class, because…after all, it is YOUR business. But I am sure you would still sack someone for the previous said reasons under the cloak of something like, oh…”I don’t like the size of your watch, you are fired!”

        • Firevine says:

          You know, there are plenty of unionized states with even worse economies thanthe at-will ones you can toddle off to at anytime, and be able to have a job no matter how lousy a worker you are.

          In my 15 years of employment, I have not one time been, or have seen someone be fired “just because”.

          • Suisei says:

            I am not at all surprised you have never seen someone get sacked before, because It usually happens so quietly and swiftly that the only time you even catch a whiff of something is different is when you see someone’s empty desk. I am not saying that protected states are the cure-all answer, and I wasn’t referring to the economy. And I think that you are finally seeing my point that firings should be more focused on the performance of said individual and not sacking someone because you were having marital troubles at home so you want to take it out on someone who sneezed too loudly.

            • Firevine says:

              You were making a point? Could have fooled me, really. I just saw ranting from someone who seems to have been fired for being a lousy worker and is bitter about it.

              • Suisei says:

                Excuse me? I have actually never been fired from any job. I have two in which I like very much. I have spoken to people who have been sacked for shady reasons and have witnessed a very vocal manager sack someone for no real reason. Don’t get pissy because I actually care about workplace rights. Instead of calling someone bitter, why don’t you re-read my comments.

        • Package Man says:

          How does it always get back to race? Really tired of that argument. You ought to be ashamed of yourself for stooping so low.

          • Suisei says:

            That statement was packaged with all the other protected classes, I was not stating race alone. So, no, I am not ashamed at all.

          • Suisei says:

            In addition, I find it very interesting that you yourself decided to choose to comment on ‘race’ out of all the other protected classes I mentioned, instead of the subject as a whole. I think you’re the one who should be feeling ashamed.

      • Suisei says:

        Or, “Your teeth are too white! YOU ARE FIRED!”

      • Applekid ‚îÄ‚îÄ‚î¨ Ôªø„Éé( „Çú-„Çú„Éé) says:

        It takes a cold motherfucker to let people go on a moment’s notice.

        I don’t see why it shouldn’t be law that an employer at least gives as much notice as they expect from their employees when it comes to termination of employment.

        • bluline says:

          But there is no law that says you must give two weeks of notice. It may be a common practice, but it certainly isn’t law. You can walk out the door at any time you like, for whatever reason you like. Why can’t the employer have the same right?

          • Suisei says:

            I don’t comment much here, (notice the multiple out of order posts?) but I am sure you have noticed this is a subject in which I feel strongly about. I think I should stop because I should really get some sleep. It just stinks to have the strings of your livelihood held by someone who can clip them for virtually any reason, with no consequence. In my second job, I manage 15 individuals under me and I have only sacked one, which was purely because of performance. He was late to work a couple of times, would not complete his work orders, and actually told me an obvious lie about why he couldn’t come in to work. I told him that if he really wanted to lie to me, he could have at least chosen one that was much more believable.

          • RandomHookup says:

            In a number of states, the employer has to pay any employee terminated right away or be subject to damages. It’s not uncommon to send them home and FedEx a check including the day of delivery.

            Employers are messing with people’s lives. It can just be “I’m the employer and I can do whatever I want”. There are always some idiots out there who just don’t treat people properly.

          • Applekid ‚îÄ‚îÄ‚î¨ Ôªø„Éé( „Çú-„Çú„Éé) says:

            Walking out on a job is equally bad, too, IMO. I’d love to see a cooling off period for all parties involved.

            But, main difference being that an employee that walks out isn’t likely to get a good reference and eventually reputation catches up and they will not be employable. An employer that fires people without warning pays no price.

            • Doubting thomas says:

              as a manager a 2 week notice for a termed employee is a headache and nightmare waiting to happen. How does that even work, You are fired but feel free to come in and work the cash register and/or have access to company data and sales contacts for an additional 2 weeks?
              I can agree with a severance package of some sort, but once I decide an employee is bad for my business I want them gone that day.

              • podunkboy says:

                I knew back in July that I wasn’t being offered a job with the contract service taking over our department, but they told me if I remained until November 7 I’d get a nice severance + all my accumulated vacation. I worked to the best of my ability up to the last day, walked out of there with a huge check, and didn’t look back. But I’ve had co-workers who gave 2 weeks notice and spent the last two weeks with their feet up on the desk, talking on the phone.
                Still looking for another job, however – the market’s crap here and no one is paying much over minimum + $2.

          • Kitamura says:

            I don’t live in the states, but here if you are an employee at a company for over 6 months, you are required to gives 2 weeks notice. The business is also required to give the employee 2 weeks notice of termination, but can at their choosing terminate immediately and simply pay the employee 2 weeks pay. Rules are different if they’re terminating with cause, or they go out of business I’m pretty sure though.

        • The Porkchop Express says:

          So if somebody tells you “hey in two weeks you don’t work here anymore” how hard are you going to work?

          I would spend my days finding the new job I need. nothing would get done.

      • jimbobjoe says:

        There is only one state that isn’t at-will, and it’s Montana.

        Ironically, I have read that it is a far easier state to do business in, because the statutes for terminating employment are clear and concise. The other 49 states are hypothetically at-will, but are a clusterfuck of laws, regulations and court cases, which require a lot of legal sophistication to know what’s going on.

      • Such an Interesting Monster says:

        I say this on behalf of workers everywhere: FUCK YOU.

        • bluline says:

          But he’s right. The job is his to give or take away, not yours to keep forever. Just because you hold the position doesn’t make it “your” job any more than working for the enterprise makes it “your” company.

          • Suisei says:

            Like i said, I think there should be a balance, because employers should understand that their employees are the legs they stand on, and without them, their business would cripple to a stop. This does not mean they have the right to treat them any way they like. I remember attending employee progression training for one of my jobs, and they were talking about how many people do not think that you should be courteous in a workplace environment.

          • Such an Interesting Monster says:

            No, he’s wrong. And this is why the US is currently at the bottom of the shitter. Because companies treat their workers like cattle instead of human beings. And I find it reprehensible that people think otherwise. Making a profit should not come at the expense of ruining someone’s life. If you need to do that in order for your business to thrive then you need a new business model cause the one you have is broken.

            No one is saying that a person should have a job for life regardless of their actions and/or performance. But firing someone without genuine and documented cause is just as unacceptable and should not be legal.

      • Clyde Barrow says:

        As an employer “at will” does not mean to fire at any given time without cause. You are responsible for maintaining a policy and documenting employee issues before firing anyone or you can be sued.

        • rushevents says:

          You can be sued but the case WILL be thrown out.

          It is entirely legitimate to fire someone just because you need to cut back or because you don’t like their attitude or because you (the boss) are just a complete jerk. It sucks but it is still legal.

          The only way it is a problem is if the employee can show the the boss somehow discriminated against them using one of the protected class criteria. (Age, race, sex, orientation, religion). Something a law firm would know better about btw.

          • Yomiko says:

            Agreed. Keeping documentation of the reason you did fire someone is still useful, but only for the purposes of proving you didn’t do it for an illegal reason.

        • Shadowman615 says:

          That depends on what state you’re in. Many states have other exceptions to the at-will doctrine.

      • Nyxalinth says:

        So how would the employees wearing orange interfere, unless you had some weird visual condition where your eyes go all wonky at the sight of it and it’s detrimental to your business?

        I think the boss/es were just being a-holes looking for a lame excuse to fire the whole lot. Hope they have fun outsourcing all that work.

      • gigwave says:

        Right. Being a minority is reason enough!

    • amuro98 says:

      I’m also in a Work-At-Will state.

      One manager gave me a good review, a raise, then was told to lay me off 2 weeks later.

      A competitor to my now ex-employer found I was on the market, and hired me, resulting in a 15% raise.

      When they laid me off, I went to another competitor and got another large raise.

      Fortunately I’m in an industry that has MANY competitors all located close together.

  7. humphrmi says:

    So here’s the part I don’t understand:

    “According to an account in the Ft. Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel, the 14 were called into a conference room at the firm and told that management took their shirts to mean that they were staging some kind of protest.”

    However, at-will still protects certain actions, as pointed out in the article:
    “If the wearing of the shirt was to protest working conditions, then such protest would be protected under federal law.”

    So they *thought* they were protesting, which would be protected, and fired them for that. But if they weren’t protesting, as the group claims, then they could be terminated simply for wearing orange, which isn’t protected by law.

    *scratches head*

    • OSAM says:

      #Florida

      /thread

    • az123 says:

      Well the federal law is specific that you are protesting “working conditions” so just because you are protesting against something the law firm does or you don’t like does not mean that your protest is covered under the federal law. Even something like wadges may not be covered if the law is specific to things like safety etc…

  8. Froggmann says:

    Me thinks the boss was just pissed he wasn’t invited to happy hour.

  9. nybiker says:

    Maybe the folks at Orange (see the naming rights for BAFTA) got their tightie whities in a bunch about them not paying to wear the outfits?
    I haven’t read the linked story, but did these folks leave in the middle of the day or did they go out after their work day was over?

  10. May contain snark says:

    That kitteh does not look happy.

  11. DonnieZ says:

    If this in fact could be presented as wearing shirts as a protest, and that is the exception to the law in Florida, I’d be none too confident in the abilities of said law firm.

  12. Firevine says:

    Eh…there has to be more to this. Maybe happy hour was during their lunch break, and they kept coming back snockered.

  13. Doubting thomas says:

    There is a near 100% chance that there is another side to this story that the lawyers are smart enough not to be telling.
    14 employees get together after work and consume “a few” drinks on payday. What do you think the conversation turns to? People start bitching about their job or their boss. Things get said about the company or one particular manager that never would dare be spoken in the office. One of the 14 decides to kiss-ass and tattle. Next payday all the malcontents wear orange shirts making it easier to gather together all the “guilty” parties together and axe them.

    Not saying that is right or fair but it seems far more likely than someone hates orange. Heck in my days as a restaurant manager I fired more than one waiter/ kitchen worker for bitching about their job, granted the ones I fired were doing it at work, not at a bar on their own time, but I don’t want that kind of negativity spreading around my staff. (Caveat; I never once fired or disciplined an employee for coming to me or another manager with a complaint or a problem, I am talking about the type of employees who spend any time a manager isn’t looking standing around the drink station complaining about everything under the sun and spreading their malcontent to others)

  14. Fast Eddie Eats Bagels says:

    I’m sure Home Depot will hire them.

  15. Cacao says:

    Why didn’t they just change into orange shirts at the end of their work day?

    • badachie says:

      Probably because they didn’t think that wearing orange was going to get them fired. Just a hunch.

    • Cosmo_Kramer says:

      Because they’re liars. Come on man, you think a group of adults are going to coordinate clothing when they’re going to a bar after work?

  16. u1itn0w2day says:

    At least they didn’t wear red.

  17. Major Tom Coming Home says:

    In Florida you can’t be fired for being black, but you can be fired for wearing black. Makes perfect sense to me!

    /s

  18. MrMagoo is usually sarcastic says:

    Knock-knock…

    Who’s there?

    Orange.

    Orange Who?

    Orange you sorry you wore that shirt?

  19. sumocat says:

    What reason would these people have to protest? Oh right, they work for humorless a–holes who fire people for wearing orange.

  20. LionMan says:

    http://www.erwlaw.com/

    Why do I get the feeling this is one of those robo-signer forclosure mills?

  21. StatusfriedCrustomer says:

    I blame the Dukes for this.

  22. Me - now with more humidity says:

    Should have just said they’re Gator fans and it was NCAA tourney weekend. Unless the boss is an FSU fan, of course.

  23. longfeltwant says:

    Nobody gets fired for wearing an orange shirt, but all the time people use excuses like shirt color as a cover for the real truth, something like insubordination.

    Raise your hand if you think a law firm would fire thirteen good, hard-working employees with good attitudes, just because they are friendly after work. Nobody? Me neither.

    It’s pretty clear that there is more to this story.

    • Brunette Bookworm says:

      I think there is more to this story but if 14 employees had a problem or “attitude” about something at their job that says to me that there is something there the company needs to fix. One person complaining can just be that person being a bad employee. 14 people is a symptom of a bigger problem.

      • Doubting thomas says:

        it is pretty easy for one persuasive malcontent to spread his negativity and misery, if a manger doesn’t nip it in the bud it does not take long for a whole department to get infected.

  24. Nic715 says:

    Geeze and I thought it was bad when my employer tried to charge us $5 to dress down in orange each time SU played in the tourney…it didn’t work out too well for them though because we don’t have a uniform or anything and being Syracusans, we all happen to own a wide variety of orange clothing. Most of us found something orange that was still acceptable attire as far as dresscode goes and just wore that. I already have another within dresscode orange shirt picked out for Thursday. If we weren’t allowed to wear orange around here, half the work force would be fired!

    • failurate says:

      Doesn’t the $5 go to a charity of some sort? That is how it rolls where I work. We will get a “Jeans Day” in exchange for a $5 donation to United Way or some other group. We raise oodles of money this way.

      • RandomHookup says:

        Agree. Seems that the money needs to go somewhere other than into the boss’s pockets.

      • Nic715 says:

        Nope. It was the first thing I asked…last time we had dress down it was for the United Way and breast cancer research before that. This time it was supposed to go towards the employee activity fund…which means that they may throw us an ice cream social or something within the next 2 years…but lucky me, I’M in the dept. They usually call on to ‘run’ those events. So basically I’d be paying $5 to scoop icecream for everyone else. No thanks! If it went to a charity, I wouldn’t mind….but employee activity fund isn’t gonna cut it for me.

  25. pinkbunnyslippers says:

    I’d read on another site from a ‘close source’ to the group that the shirts were worn as part of a passive aggressive dig at their manager who happened to be an afficianado of self tanner. The happy hour ‘tradition’ had only been going on for a couple of weeks, and had nothing to do with the reason why these people were fired. Or something to that effect…

    Either way, there’s WAY more to this than what’s being let on here.

  26. Fishnoise says:

    I could absolutely see this happening. I was an associate at a law firm where the managing partner was paranoid and assumed if staff were doing ANYTHING non-work related or unauthorized together in or out of work hours, it was presumptively seditious.

    I have young kids and once had an extra ticket to Disney on Ice so I invited a nice older secretary to join my family and me. Had fun, but the boss somehow found out — I got a warning while the secretary got reamed out.

  27. El_Fez says:

    Man, that sucks – we have Hawaiian Shirt Friday every week here in my office!

  28. voogru says:

    Who cares? Let dumb companies do dumb things, the market will take care of them by putting them out of business.

  29. jp7570-1 says:

    Was this an Irish firm?

    • Ablinkin says:

      Now where the hell are those union thugs when you need them?

      Oh yeah they’re out breaking knee caps in the blue states.

  30. kpsi355 says:

    (Quote) The law firm where they worked wasn’t happy with the outfit choice, claiming the workers were wearing the shirts as a form of protest.

    Florida and other states are “at will” employment states, which means anyone can be fired for any legal reason whatsoever ‚Äî even if your employer just doesn’t like the color of your shirt. The only exception is wearing something to protest working conditions. (/Quote)

    … So even if they weren’t protesting, the fact that they were fired for protesting means they have a good case? Wow, this sounds like a plot from Eli Stone or Boston Legal.

  31. Free Legal Advice! says:

    Cerulean blue is like a cool breeze…

  32. Evil_Otto would rather pay taxes than make someone else rich says:

    “Who Knew Wearing Orange Shirts To Work Is A Fireable Offense?”

    I did.

    Employment law in this country is a cruel joke. Unless you’re an employer with all the power, that is.

  33. MylesMDT says:

    There were fired because it was an inside office joke. One of the new supervisors, a woman who just happened to be married to one of the execs, was disliked. That same supervisor used artificial tanning and her skin was orange. Everyone wore orange to make fun of her. Her hubby fired them all.

    This story came out days ago and the original had an attached video where one of the fired employees told the full story.

  34. Heyref says:

    This law firm would have a big problem here in San Francisco. It’s almost time for Orange Fridays to start up again. Go Giants!