Two weeks ago in a post titled “How orange turned into pink (slips),” we reported on a Florida law firm that fired a group of employees for wearing orange shirts to work one day. The law firm probably felt comfortable with their decision at the time because Florida is an at-will employment state, which means workers can be fired for any reason as long as it is not an unlawful one.
The employees who were fired now believe they have found an unlawful reason — and the grounds for a lawsuit — against their former employer. Remember, management fired the employees because it believed the orange shirts were being worn as a protest. As it turns out, new management had recently been put in place at the law firm, and several people were upset about some of the new rules.
The lawyer for the employees has now filed a charge with the National Labor Relations Board, asserting the law firm violated the National Labor Relations Act which prohibits employers from “interfer[ing] with, restrain[ing], or coerce[ing] employees” from engaging in concerted activity. Under the NLRA, employees “have the right to self-organization, … to engage in other concerted activities for the purpose of collective bargaining or other mutual aid or protection…”
This type of argument is not unprecedented. Just last year, the NLRB ruled that AT&T violated the NLRA by suspending employees who wore shirts that said “INMATE #” on the front and “Prisoner of AT$T” on the back. The dollar sign referenced that employee’s feelings that AT&T was all about money.
It is still unclear whether all, or some, of the employees were wearing the orange shirts as a protest. Regardless, it will be interesting to see the result of this case. Stay tuned.
About the author
Sharolyn Whiting-Ralston is a trial lawyer with the McAfee & Taft law firm. Her practice is primarily focused on labor and employment law and general civil and business litigation. She represents employers in all phases of labor and employment law, including litigation before state and federal courts, regulatory and administrative agencies, and arbitration panels. Her experience includes advising clients on such issues as drug and alcohol testing, employee handbook and policy development, wage and hour matters, workplace safety and reductions in force as well as litigation avoidance and compliance with other federal and state laws. In addition to her representation of employers in labor and employment matters, she represents clients in general civil and business litigation matters including construction disputes and complex commercial litigation.
Sharolyn has been a featured guest speaker at various training events and employment seminars, including a national audio conference, and has been a contributing author to the Oklahoma Employment Law Letter.
Her achievements have earned her inclusion in Oklahoma Super Lawyers‘ list of “Oklahoma Rising Stars” (employment and labor, business/corporate, environmental litigation), which recognizes the state’s top up-and-coming attorneys.