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Orange shirt-wearing workers allegedly fired for protesting new policies

Former employees of a large law firm in Florida say that they were fired for wearing orange shirts to work one day. Some of the 14 terminated employees say that they were protesting working conditions, and one told reporters that she was wearing orange because it's her favorite color. Several have been re-hired after apparently telling managers that they were wearing the color by coincidence and did not have a problem with working conditions.

The case brings up several issues in employment law. Most significantly, it is illegal to fire workers for protesting working conditions under the National Labor Relations Act. The law protects activities either with or without a union. Workers are protected from retaliation of any kind for discussing, commenting, or complaining about working conditions. The law is extremely important and safeguards employees from having their freedom of speech restricted or having their right to a safe, clean, and harassment-free environment curtailed.

Six of the 14 workers have filed a lawsuit, but the employer has not formally responded yet. According to the complaint, a manager gathered all of the employees wearing orange on that day and said that management interpreted the orange shirts as a protest of working conditions, and that they were all fired. This is a clear violation of the law and is quite shocking given that the employer was a law firm and presumably knew that this was against the law.

The workers had complained previously about new restrictions placed on them by management. They say that they were no longer allowed to speak to each other over the walls of their cubicles, and that they were no longer permitted to go to the break room or get a refill of their coffee while on the clock.

Source: ABC News, "Fired Orange Workers Couldn't Speak Over Cubicle Walls?" March 27, 2012.

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