The Chicago Employment Law Blog

Fired For Wearing Orange Shirts? At-Will States Say That's OK

Can you get fired if your boss doesn’t like the color of your shirt?

According to NBC Miami, a Florida law firm fired thirteen employees after they came to work wearing orange shirts last week. The employees say that they were wearing the shirts so that they looked like a group when they went out for happy hour. They claim to have worn orange shirts every pay day for the past few months.

Their employer, the Elizabeth R. Welborn P.A. law firm in Deerfield Beach, Fla., thought otherwise. They were accused of being involved in a protest and as a result, they were let go, despite the fact that one employee tried to explain the happy hour connection.

Unfortunately, in a state that has "at-will" employment laws, an employer can fire an employee at any time, without cause. Illinois is an "at-will" state and as such, an employee in Chicago can be fired at any time without any cause.

And that would include the wearing of a color that ticked off the employer.

Of course, we're painting with large brush strokes here, so we need to elaborate a bit further. At-will doesn't mean that an employer can fire for any reason they choose. They can't fire an employee for what they wear, if the clothing is protected by law.

What type of clothing is protected by law? Well, the most logical and obvious answer here would be items of religious clothing. For example, if an employer terminates a Sikh man for wearing a turban, he may have a cause of action for employment discrimination or wrongful termination. Similarly, if a woman is fired for covering her head for religious reasons (which is commonly seen in Chicago among Muslim women or Orthodox Jewish women), then the woman may have a cause of action, too.

Do orange shirts fall into this "protected" category? It's hard to say. It will likely be an uphill battle for a Chicago employment lawyer to make the case, if that story played out here.

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