In an at-will state, like California or Florida, you can fire your employees for any reason — however moronic — so long as it is not specifically prohibited by state law. So: you can't fire people based on race or gender, or for reporting unlawful activity. However, you can fire people for all sorts of utterly arbitrary and douchey reasons. Just ask 14 former employees of Elizabeth R. Wellborn, P.A., a law firm in Deerfield Beach, Florida.
Apparently Elizabeth R. Wellborn, P.A. fired 14 people for wearing orange on the same day. Most of the employees said they were wearing orange to celebrate it being payday and because they were going out carousing after work — except for one, who says she just likes orange and happened to be wearing it that day. It's not clear what about the orange caused the firm to go nuts — though firm supervisors did apparently invite people to come forward to offer any "innocent" reason for wearing it.
Though the firm has refused comment, some reports suggest the firm viewed the shirts as some sort of protest of some firm policy. If that's the case, it's possible the firm is in trouble under the National Labor Relations Act for punishing "concerted activity." If, on the other hand, the mass firing was simply arbitrary and capricious, it's probably perfectly legal. I think that it should be — the government should not police employment decisions that do not violate specific rights. Is such behavior repugnant? Certainly. But there's a remedy for that — publicize the behavior. Ask yourself — do you, as a potential client, feel comfortable taking your case to a firm Elizabeth R. Wellborn, P.A. that makes arbitrary and capricious decisions in such a matter? Does the termination of 14 employees for wearing orange inspire confidence in Elizabeth R. Wellborn, P.A.'s probity and discretion? Given that Elizabeth R. Wellborn, P.A. handled its pique over a shirt color in a manner almost certain provoke litigation (whether or not that litigation has ultimate legal merit), can you trust that firm to handle your matter in a way that will avoid unnecessary litigation and expense?
I sure as hell wouldn't hire Elizabeth R. Wellborn, P.A. for anything. And I hate orange. It makes me look like a giant pumpkin.
Last 5 posts by Ken White
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