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Were South Florida workers fired for protesting office policies?

When Florida residents have a work dispute with management involving their employment status or unfair working conditions, many are likely to seek the representation of a lawyer. But in one recent case from South Florida, a law firm appears to be at the heart of the employee dispute.

According a recent news article, 14 support staff members at a South Florida law firm were all fired on the same day for wearing orange clothing to work. Several of the fired employees have hired their own lawyer and are considering legal action, including possibly filing a wrongful termination suit.

Florida is an "at-will" employment state, which means that employees can be fired for nearly any reason except for those that conflict with a piece of legislation or the terms of an employment contract.

It appears as though at least some of the workers were wearing orange in protest of new office policies they found to be unfair. Some of the workers could have been wearing orange to suggest the look of prison uniforms.

If they were fired for protesting or objecting to working conditions, this could potentially be considered illegal and grounds for a wrongful termination lawsuit. An attorney representing some of the former employees explained that, "Firing because people engaged in activities or are suspected of engaging in activities for objecting to working conditions are illegal under the National Labor Relations Act."

We often write about protected employee speech in the context of things that are said on Facebook to other coworkers. But this could be a more traditional example where employees expressed opinions about working conditions in a calm and professional manner, yet were fired for it.

Hopefully, the situation will resolve itself without the need for further legal action. Three of the fired employees have already been hired back, according to news sources. But if the other terminated employees were fired for engaging in protected employee speech and are not re-hired, the case may be far from over.

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

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