How Far Can Bosses Take At-Will Laws When Firing?

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NBC Miami recently picked up the story of a Deerfield Beach law firm that laid off 14 employees for wearing orange shirts to work. I will repeat that: A Deerfield Beach law firm fired 14 of its workers for wearing flamboyantly colored shirts.

The workers say they were wearing the shirts so they would look like a group when they went out for drinks on a Friday happy hour.

But their boss didn't see it that way -- they thought it was part of a protest.

Regardless, there's a link here: Florida, like Illinois, is an at-will state. That means the employer or employee can terminate the relationship at any time. However, 14 people from a lawsuit being let go for such a specious reason? There's likely a lawsuit that'll result out of this. Who knows if it'll fly.

The Chicago Employment Law Blog weighed in this, saying that some 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.

It's hard to say whether orange shirts fall under protected clothing. In Illinois, probably not. But as a reminder: At-will means an employer can fire an employee at any time and without cause. That's a cheery thought. 

David Wolinsky is a freelance writer and a lifelong Chicagoan. In addition to currently serving as an interviewer-writer for Adult Swim, he's also a columnist for EGM. He was the Chicago city editor for The Onion A.V. Club where he provided in-depth daily coverage of this city's bustling arts/entertainment scene for half a decade. When not playing video games for work he's thinking of dashing out to Chicago Diner, Pizano's, or Yummy Yummy. His first career aspirations were to be a game-show host.

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