Lawyer wannabe Elle Woods professed, “Whoever said orange was the new pink was seriously disturbed,” and a Law Firm in Florida took this fashion advice quite literally.
14 employees of Elizabeth R. Wellborn law firm were fired for donning matching orange T-shirts to work.
Why all the orange you ask?
These workers made payday Fridays an exciting event by collectively wearing orange to the office, and then out to happy hour to celebrate the week’s end and their newly received pay checks. The employees claimed that the orange shirts allowed them to stand out while attending bustling happy hours, and brought them together as a group. Throwing on an orange shirt in the morning would mean that you could look forward to some cash in the bank at the end of the day, as well as a nice drink amongst work friends.
Unfortunately, as luck would have it, the “powers that be” caught wind of this “orange organization,” and did not care for it. They had supposedly been told that the orange shirts were in protest of new management, and so an executive from the firm called the 14 employees in for a meeting and demanded they explain why they were wearing orange. He did not buy it when the various paralegals and admins explained the shirts were merely a fun tradition that the group had adopted, and all 14 employees were fired immediately.
“There is no office policy against wearing orange shirts. We had no warning. We got no severance, no package, no nothing. I feel so violated,” said Lou Erik Ambert, a 31-year-old former paralegal of the firm.
Offers Lou Erik Ambert: “…. a fellow employee tried to explain that wearing orange had become an innocent happy hour tradition. But executives didn’t buy it.”
Many of you are probably wondering, how can this be? How can an employer just decide at random, to fire a whole group of people?
In this particular case the executives do have a right to let go whoever they see fit because Florida is an “at will” employment state. This means that, unless it violates the law, employees can be fired at any time, for any reason. The employer doesn’t even have to tell you why, and so, in one swift meeting, all 14 people were let go.
The executives of Wellborn were clearly threatened that the workers were banding together and chose this as a strong enough reason to fire them.
What I’m wondering though, is why were these executives so paranoid? Clearly they thought that there would be reason for their employees to protest? Only a guilty conscience would clear out so many workers in one quick meeting.
What are you doing behind boardroom doors Wellborn, that you feel your employees would band together to protest against you? Why couldn’t you take their word that they were merely participating in a fun, team building routine? Many companies would literally pay for their employees to grow the type of relationship that would lead them to enjoy each other’s company, so much so, they decide to see each other even AFTER the workweek has ended. This kind of group engagement is almost unheard of, so does that make it grounds for firing?
“To my mind, protesting is where you put your foot down, and you’re not working,” Yadel Fong, a mail-room worker said on the brutal day, “There was none of that today.”
What is next Florida? Punishing employees for having birthday cake for fellow workers on their special day? Firing people for using the bathroom at the same time, out of fear that they are plotting a company take down?
The greater irony of course is had the employer fired these employees for protesting (that is to say they were actually protesting) the employees under state law would have been entitled to get their jobs back, but because they were simply fired for non descript reasons, state law allows these firings to stand.
So much for sunny side Florida.
UPDATE: Here’s a comment we pulled from abovethelaw which may shed light on the case.
Watch the video: ”The employees wanted to wear T-shirts to work “that are made.” We are not allowed to wear them at work BECAUSE OF THE WORDS. So we decided to wear orange. We got a new Manager. I guess she has a complex about tanning, SHE’S ORANGE.”
So the employees wanted to wear T-shirts with some sort of saying that were deemed inappropriate for the workplace, and when the new manager told them no, they wore orange to mock her. They were being disruptive to the office and they got fired. They weren’t fired for wearing orange. They were fired for being jerks. And then to top it off, they went to the press on the day they were fired to make the employer look even worse.
Note that the firm appears to only do bank-side foreclosure work, so they may not care about the public relations aspect of it.
Author’s note– when you watch the video the subject Janice Doble asserts that they were indeed fired for coming to work and wearing orange, as advised by their superior. Ms Doble also goes on to say the manager that they wanted to unsettle was nowhere in the office that day.
Hmm. Perhaps a discipline may have been more warranted?