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Can Wearing an Orange Shirt to Work Get You Fired?

Can Wearing an Orange Shirt to Work Get You Fired?
Cute J. Crew tee. I want it. But could it get me fired?

You betcha.

According to the Sun Sentinel, 14 staffers formerly employed by Elizabeth R. Wellborn, P.A., a law firm in Deerfield Beach, Florida, were let go last Friday for wearing orange shirts.

To add insult to injury, that Friday also happened to be pay day.

Several of the terminated employees told the Sun Sentinel they were called into a conference room and asked by an upper management employee if they were wearing orange in protest.

One employee spoke up and said they were wearing the shirts for Happy Hour after work, to show their togetherness as a group.

They all still lost their jobs anyway, including a single mom, a mail room clerk, and a woman who loves the color so much she painted her patio orange.

According to a legal expert interviewed for the article, Florida is an at-will state for employment, and you can get fired for any reason, as long as it doesn’t violate state and federal laws.

North Carolina, where I work, is also an at-will state, and when I explain what it means to people, I usually say something along the lines of, “Yes, you can be fired for your hair style, your attitude, or the color shirt you’re wearing.”

But I’ve never actually read about it happening.

This story will keep me up all night. Is there more to it? That’s a lot of orange shirt wearers getting fired on the same day. They’d been wearing orange shirts on pay days for months. Maybe someone could have just said, “Don’t…”

Should we host an “Orange Shirt Protest Friday”? (I don’t even own any orange clothes, although I have to admit my Visible Monday post now looks kinda orange in retrospect.)

What about any laid off workers who just happened to make the mistake of wearing orange that day for no reason at all – no Happy Hour, no protest? Now, no job?

What do you guys think?

Source:  Sun Sentinel

13 Responses to Can Wearing an Orange Shirt to Work Get You Fired?

  1. Yikes! This post makes me realized how privileged I am in my work environment. I have no orange shirts, but an orange skirt. One does wonder if these people were warned.

  2. Wow, that's really scary that that could happen!

    I'm pretty sure it's a lot harder in Canada to get fired – I've never heard of someone getting fired for such a lame reason.

  3. Lynne – I'm not sure if you're aware of the significance of wearing orange on St. Patrick's day. A link below provides some information. If their supervising attorney was Irish, or Irish Catholic, the orange was very obviously a purposeful sign. In the Northern States, wearing Orange right before or on St. Patrick's day is a very obvious and purposeful act. Given the date of their chosen attire, I find it highly unlikely that they were just wearing the colors for happy hour, but rather as a subtle "screw you" message to their boss.

  4. Having lived half my life in Florida, I do believe they were honestly wearing orange for happy hour. Then they could claim a table and be seated together. Not to mention the State color is effectively orange, Univ. of Florida wears orange, Univ. of Miami wears orange, as do many other schools.
    I think Management read way more into this than was really there. If it had been a protest, wouldn't it then have been illegal to fire them?

  5. Oh, wow, I hadn't heard abou that!! It's crazy. People are always calling our office wanting to pursue wrongful termination suits. I feel for them, but it's just realllly hard to prove since we're a no-fault state.

  6. @Terri ~ I think a simple "Don't wear orange shirts to work again" warning would have been much more fair – unless they were making fun of the office manager's over-tanning, as someone at my Facebook page suggested 🙁

  7. @Sheila ~ I don't think anyone was more shocked that the employees. It just seems like something went to far, either as a group or among upper management. Working in litigation, I've learned the real story is usually somewhere between the opposing parties' telling of it.

  8. @Torrance ~ You may be right about the group's intentions, and I never knew about the significance of orange and St. Paddy's day until this story broke. But it wasn't even St. Paddy's day. It was pay day, which made it more awful.

  9. @Torrance ~ You may be right about the group's intentions, and I never knew about the significance of orange and St. Paddy's day until this story broke. But it wasn't even St. Paddy's day. It was pay day, which made it more awful.

  10. @Brooks ~ I don't know if a real protest would have changed the termination, although it might have given the employees a basis for filing some sort of wrongful termination, or retaliation claims (not a lawyer, peeps, just conjecturing).

    But, boy, have I heard so many different reasons they were wearing orange!

  11. @Tiffany ~ Same here. Employed 20 years at an employment and labor law firm in at at-will state, and I have heard it ALL 😛 You're exactly right in this case, proving wrongful termination could be a challenge – as it usually is in these types of cases.

  12. What? Yikes? That's so unbelievable. I'm dumbfounded – you can fire someone for the colour shirt they chose to wear to work. That would not fly here thankfully.

Contact Info:

Lynne J. DeVenny, N.C. State Bar Certified Paralegal

Owner & Virtual Paralegal, DeVenny Paralegal Services

Email: lynne.devenny[at]gmail.com

Telephone: 336-582-0003

Inquiries are welcome, with free quotes available.

Meet Lynne:

Lynne DeVenny is a North Carolina State Bar Certified Paralegal with over 27 years of experience working on complex litigation cases, including medical malpractice, personal injury, workers’ compensation, and Social Security disability.

Disclosure: I am not a lawyer and cannot provide legal representation or legal advice.

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