1. On Friday March 16, 2012 14 workers of the Elizabeth R. Wellborn law firm in Deerfield Beach FL were fired for wearing the color orange to work. During the course of the work day the 14 employees were called into a conference room and told by management that they had interpreted the practice as some kind of a protest. One of the employees then responded by saying the group was wearing orange in order to promote that they were all together when they planned to go out for drinks after work.
After conferring, the managers returned and announced that they all were immediately fired. Florida, like many other states, is a work “at will” state meaning technically the reason for the employees firing does not matter. Employees who are at will are not under contract for any definite period of time and can be fired at any time for any reason, good or bad, or no reason at all as long as the reason is not illegal or discriminatory. The former employees of the firm are basically claiming that the firm violated some of the accepted limitations to the “at will” rule. 2.
Of the many judicially imposed limitations to the rule one of the generally accepted is that employees are protected from protesting working conditions. This brings up many questions for this specific issue as to the exact facts of why the employees were terminated. Originally they were told their orange shirts were being seen as some sort of a protest. After the employees denied this the management then meet outside the room and decided that they all would be fired. The question that arises is were they fired because they were thought to be staging a protest, or just because they had all decided to wear orange?
Also, since the employees have publically denied actually trying to protest does that mean they are not protected by the limitation? Another possible issue with the firing is whether or not the employer was acting in good faith and fair dealing. Under the employee handbook of the law firm there was no specific mention to an employee not being allowed to wear a certain color. In the context that some of the former employees were speaking it was made to sound as if the practice of wearing orange to work on Fridays had been going on for some time without any problem.
Therefore did the law firm suddenly violate an unwritten agreement that employees are allowed to wear whatever color they choose to work, and would this qualify as the employer acting in bad faith against the employees? 3. My opinion on the issue is that there certainly seems more to the story than what is being presented. In an interview on the Sun Sentinel website now former employee Janice Doble stated that a new manager started in the office around March 2nd, and that the manager had a habit of fake tanning.
She suggests that maybe the manager had a “complex”, basically saying that the manager possibly interpreted the orange shirts as a way for the employees to mock him or her. Obviously, if this was the actual intent of wearing orange on Fridays the former employees would most likely not admit to it in public or in a court of law. Even if this was the actual reason for wearing orange that would mean the firing’s would be protected under the “at will” rule regardless if it is seen as a valid or invalid reason for termination.
This entire issue serves as a good example of why the “at will” doctrine exists in the first place. If this issue is taken to court it would very quickly deteriorate into a he said/she said argument with very little actual verifiable facts to contend. As previously stated, it can almost be guaranteed that there is much more to the issue than will ever come out in public or in court, and without those facts it would be difficult to make a well informed decision on what is just or unjust.
Because of that courts rightly leave issues like this one to be decided by a standard doctrine. If in fact these employees were wrongly terminated for simply wearing orange, unfortunately they may never be compensated for the wages that they lost which is the downside to the issue. However, justice may have already been served to the law firm by the media, since the firm will definitely have a hard time finding 14 new employees to work in what may be a toxic environment where they have to worry about being fired at any moment.
Also, this bad publicity may hurt the business aspect of the law firm for some time to come. References Farnham, Alan. “Florida Law Firm Fires Workers for Wearing Orange. ” Abcnews. go. com. 19 Mar. 2012. Web. 20 Mar. 2012. Hemlock, Doreen. “Orange-shirted Employees Fired at Law Firm, Workers Report. ” South Florida Sun Sentinel. 16 Mar. 2012. Web. 20 Mar. 2012. <http://www. sun-sentinel. com/>. McAdams, Tony, Nancy Neslund, and Kiren Zucker. Law, Business, & Society. 9th ed. New York: McGraw Hill, 2009. Print.