Law Firm Fires 14 For Wearing Orange

When I saw the YahooNews headline "Law firm fires 14 employees for wearing orange shirts," I naturally presumed it had something to do with St. Patrick's Day. As it turns out, it's even dumber than that.

When I saw the YahooNews headline “Law firm fires 14 employees for wearing orange shirts,” I naturally presumed it had something to do with St. Patrick’s Day. As it turns out, it’s even dumber than that:

They weren’t wearing sagging pants or revealing clothing. But dressing in an orange shirt is apparently enough to get fired at one Florida law firm, where 14 workers were unceremoniously let go last Friday.

In an interview with the Ft. Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel, several of the fired workers say they wore the matching colors so they would be identified as a group when heading out for a happy hour event after work. They say the executive who fired them initially accused them of wearing the matching color as a form of protest against management.

[…]

The law offices of Elizabeth R. Wellborn, P.A. offered “no comment” to Sun-Sentinel reporter Doreen Hemlock, but four ex-employees tell the paper they were simply wearing their orange shirts to celebrate “pay day” and the upcoming Friday group happy hour.

“There is no office policy against wearing orange shirts. We had no warning. We got no severance, no package, no nothing,” Lou Erik Ambert told the paper. “I feel so violated.”

Ironically, had the employees been wearing orange as a form of protest, it would have been illegal to fire them, ABC News reports.

[…]

And there’s really nothing anyone can do about the terminations since Florida is an at-will state, meaning employers can fire an employee who doesn’t have a contract “for a good reason, for a bad reason or even for the wrong reason, as long as it’s not an unlawful reason,” Eric K. Gabrielle, a labor and employment lawyer at Stearns Weaver, told the Sun-Sentinel. Gabrielle said there was no apparent violation of the law in this case.

While I support the right of employers to decide whom to employ, this is just . . . bizarre. If management had some whiff of protest, I can maybe see the initial instinct to nip it in the bud. But upon finding out that they all dressed the same for an after-work happy hour, you’d think they’d have backed off.

FILED UNDER: Law and the Courts, Quick Takes
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. File this under dumb-but-not-illegal. Nor do I think I should be illegal. which I’m sure some might suggest.

    Now that this is public one would think that this particular law firm is going to have some difficulty recruiting replacements. That’s how you punish idiocy like this.

  2. legion says:

    @Doug Mataconis: Agreed on all points. Also, people this stupidly resistant to facts and testimony should have a harder time picking up clients, too.

  3. sam says:

    “I naturally presumed it had something to do with St. Patrick’s Day.”

    Uh, I’m not sure wearing orange on St.Paddy’s day would be a bright move. Come to think of it, in Boston it would be an invitation to a riot…

  4. The Florida Masochist says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    Doug,

    You’re underestimating how desperate some people are for a job right now. I could use the income and if they had a job I qualified and they were close to home(40 miles isn’t close for a one car family) I’d roll the dice and apply.

  5. Eric says:

    Now I’m wondering what the reason was for management to fire the workers. Was it for the impression that they were protesting (and if it was that, wouldn’t the law firm know that that’s illegal to do)?

  6. The Florida Masochist says:

    @Eric:

    Ethics and legality from a law firm that represents mortgage companies that regularly submit false documents in order to get a foreclosure? You have to be joking.

  7. Cheryl says:

    Wow, sounds like a superfun and personally satisfying place to work. Stinks to get fired, but those 14 are going to come out better in the long run. Of course, I’m guessing this battleaxe isn’t going to be offering up glowing references…I’d love it if they pooled together and opened their own firm!

  8. @sam:

    I actually make a habit of wearing orange on St. Patrick’s Day just to see if anyone picks up on it. Of course, I live in South East Pennsylvania.

  9. @Cheryl:

    Something tells me that this wasn’t a very pleasant place to work with long before this happened. Things like this don’t just happen out of the blue (or is that out of the orange?)

  10. Ben Wolf says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    Something tells me that this wasn’t a very pleasant place to work with long before this happened. Things like this don’t just happen out of the blue (or is that out of the orange?)

    Absolutely agreed. There’s no way a management team which would make this sort of decision isn’t overbearing, reactionary and stupid in virtually every aspect of their duties. I sincerely hope the publicity gives these idiots what’s coming to them.

  11. llama says:

    Apparently Doug doesn’t understand what excess supply in a market will do, nor the idiosyncrasies of the labor market. This firm will have no trouble hiring the staff it needs.

  12. Tsar Nicholas says:

    A few points are worth mentioning:

    1. Obviously times are quite hard and ergo this is bad timing for these fired employees, but for each of them this should be looked at as an opportunity and as a potential blessing. No, I’m not trying to be flip and glib. I’m being serious.

    I’ve had the dire misfortune of having worked at several law firms. For attorneys they’re horrible places at which to be employed. For staff? Well, let me put it this way: shit flows downhill.

    Law firms are the armpits of the legal business. There are many corporate legal departments, insurance companies, public-sector departments and benefits companies, at which legal administrative professionals can ply their trades. With luck most or all of these folks soon will find themselves in much better work envrionments.

    2. At will employment is one of the few remaining areas of labor and employment law that hasn’t degenerated into loopy liberal idiocy. Hell, even the California Supreme Court — known for often going brain dead on the spot — hasn’t messed around with at will employment. Thank goodness.

    3. Lastly, and not to bring up the whole liberal media bias thing again, but usually it’s a good rule of thumb to be prepared to disbelieve entirely, or at least entirely to be skeptical of, newspaper accounts that touch on employer-employee relations. Now, mind you, I’m not saying this paper in Florida is having a fake but accurate moment. I don’t know that. I do know, however, the overwhelming majority of newspapers engage in agenda journalism from a left-wing perspective; therefore I’m quite skeptical of this story ab initio. I also know a lot about workplaces.

    I’ve worked in many offices and I’ve represented, advised and counseled literally hundreds of employers over the course of a 17-year legal career in which I’ve specialized in labor and employment law. In all those years of experience I’ve never — never! — heard of a group of employees coming into work dressed alike to “celebrate pay day” and to celebrate the company’s “group happy hour.” That to me smells like serious bravo sierra. Super duper bravo sierra, in point of fact.

    There’s more going on here than what’s being reported by the media. I’ll leave it at that.

  13. BigFire says:

    This will actively discourage people from applying to this firm.

    As for Orange, the only thing I can think of it is that it’s the color of the Protestant Orange during the Glorious Revolution, and the overthrow of James II. At least that’s what the marcher in Ulster insist on wearing during the marching season.

  14. @BigFire:

    Green = Republicans/Nationalists/Catholics
    Orange = Unionists/Loyalists/Protestants

    See the song “The Orange and the Green” for example.

  15. Herb says:

    Hmmm…this may be perfectly legal, but like cheating on one’s wife (also legal), it’s a dick move.

  16. Just 'nutha ig'rant cracker says:

    @llama: Doug is living in his mom’s basement blogging, before that, he was a lawyer, what would he know about the labor market, idiosyncratic or other wise? Or the real world as far as that goes.

  17. Just 'nutha ig'rant cracker says:

    @Tsar Nicholas: And yet, two days ago you were employed at a large trading firm dealing in wholesale gasoline transactions at the management level..

    Bravo Sierra, indeed! Roger that!

  18. MarkedMan says:

    @Stormy Dragon: Do you also wear swastikas on Rosh Hashanna just to see if anyone picks up on it? I’m going to assume you don’t know why an Irish Catholic might find orange offensive, but you are displaying ignorance, not cleverness.

  19. @MarkedMan:

    I see, so being a Protestant == being a Nazi.

  20. PD Shaw says:

    And the thread’s been improbably godwinned. Did you see that coming, Will? No, I certainly did not, Pat.

  21. James Joyner says:

    @sam:

    I’m not sure wearing orange on St.Paddy’s day would be a bright move. Come to think of it, in Boston it would be an invitation to a riot…

    Right. I assumed they’d worn orange to rub the noses of a large number of Irish-American employees in it, causing a ruckus and refused to change or some such.

  22. Nikki says:

    Commenters on various web sites are spreading the rumor that the orange shirts were meant to mock one of the higher ups who had gotten an artificial tan and the happy hour excuse is bogus.

  23. Trumwill says:

    @Nikki: If that’s true, that still doesn’t speak well of the employer. You don’t see this kind of response to a tan in a typical work environment.

    (I have the distinction of having worked for one of the worst five employers in the entire nation (according to employee satisfaction surveys). Those of us who worked the night shift would actually make a habit out of urinating on the side of the building. Had they found out, they could have and probably should have fired us. The problem wasn’t that we were urinating on the side of the building. The problem is that they had a work environment that made a bunch of educated workers go out of their way to do so.)