Where I work, we get donuts on payday Friday. At one law office in Florida, workers go to happy hour after work. They all wear the same color shirt so they look like a group when they go out for happy hour.
A lot of places get crowded for happy hour on Friday nights, so it makes sense to me that they would wear a visible color so group members could find each other. On one recent Friday,
14 workers wearing orange shirts were called into a conference room, where an executive said he understood there was a protest involving orange, the employees were wearing orange, and they all were fired.
The executive said anyone wearing orange for an innocent reason should speak up. One employee immediately denied involvement with a protest and explained the happy-hour color.
The executives conferred outside the room, returned and upheld the decision: all fired, said Lou Erik Ambert, 31, of Coconut Creek, a litigation para-legal who said he was terminated.
Fourteen people fired because an executive was paranoid about some type of worker protest that wasn’t even happening. And people say we don’t need unions today because the “job creators” don’t do things like this? Seriously?
This is perfectly legal too as Florida, like most states, is an at-will state. With few exceptions at-will means the employer is free to discharge individuals for good cause, or bad cause, or no cause at all and the employee is equally free to quit, strike or otherwise cease work.
Some of the employees who were fired for wearing the same color shirt spoke to a local newspaper. “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,” according to one. Another said “I’m a single mom with four kids, and I’m out of a job just because I wore orange today.” One wants us to know they weren’t protesting: “To my mind, protesting is where you put your foot down, and you’re not working. There was none of that today.” But that doesn’t matter—all that matters is that their boss thought they might be protesting.
Fired for wearing orange without warning and because of the paranoid delusions of a “job creator.” His assumption that his employees were protesting management just cost 14 people their livelihoods. This is so wrong on so many levels and is just one more reason why unions are necessary.
This blog originally appeared in Daily Kos Labor on March 21, 2012. Reprinted with permission.
About the Author: Mark Anderson, a Daily Kos Labor contributor, describes himself as a 44 year-old veteran, lifelong Progressive Democrat, Rabid Packer fan, Single Dad, Part-time Grad Student, and Full-time IS worker. You can learn more about him on his Facebook, “Kodiak54 (Mark Andersen)”