Careful what you wear in Florida!
There and in other so-called “at will” employment states,you can be fired for any legal reason, as 14 employees of the Elizabeth R. Wellborn law firm in Deerfield Beach found out when they wore orange shirts to work on Friday.
Today they are unemployed. A spokesperson for the law firm had no comment.
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. Some denied the claim. Nonetheless, all will now be looking for new jobs.
“We had no warning,” a paralegal told the Sun-Sentinel. “I feel so violated.”
Some of the group contend they had established a custom of wearing orange shirts on pay-day Fridays, to promote a feeling of togetherness when they would go out as a group for drinks.
Mailroom worker Yadel Fong, 21, told the paper, “To my mind, protesting is where you put your foot down, and you’re not working.” Fong says there was none of that on Friday.
But in Florida, the reason for their fashion statement hardly matters: You can legally be fired for wearing orange as a prelude to happy hour. You can legally be fired for wearing orange in protest. Or, it could simply be that Elizabeth R. Wellborn, founder of the firm, which supports the mortgage banking industry, has a thing about the color.
Allan Weitzman, a board certified attorney in labor and employment law at Prosakauer Rose LLP in Boca Raton, says that under the ‘at will’ rule an employer “can fire for good reason, for bad reason, or for no reason at all, if the reason is not illegal.”
If an employer fires somebody because he doesn’t like their orange shirt, that would be legal. An exception: If the wearing of the shirt was to protest working conditions, then such protest would be protected under federal law.
So, be warned: Don’t wear orange in the Sunshine State.