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8 Law Firm Workers Who Say They Were Fired for Wearing Orange Shirts File NLRB Complaint

Posted Apr 12, 2012 3:54 PM CDT
By Martha Neil

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Updated: Fired, they say, for wearing orange shirts at work at a Florida law firm, eight workers are fighting back.

They say the shirts were simply to show they were part of a group when they went out together for drinks after getting paid by the Elizabeth R. Wellborn law firm in Deerfield Beach. But law firm management considered them a protest, which means the firings were not permissible under the National Labor Relations Act, the eight employees contend in a complaint filed with the National Labor Relations Board, recounts the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.

They are represented by Donna Ballman of Fort Lauderdale.

The NLRA says management cannot "interfere with, restrain, or coerce employees" from engaging in concerted activity, the complaint contends.

However, Wellborn says in a written statement provided to the ABA Journal that her law firm did nothing wrong and fired the employees for bullying and harassing a law firm office manager:

"We welcome the opportunity to present all the facts to the National Labor Relations Board regarding the recent charge that employees were discharged for wearing orange shirts to protest work conditions," it says. "We have endeavored not to try this case in the press because we have a policy not to publicly comment on former employees out of respect for their privacy. However, since the charge was filed and after enduring unfounded malicious and vicious attacks, we can no longer remain silent.

"Any assertion that the firm disciplines people for what they wear–or simply for wearing orange shirts–is ludicrous and disingenuous," the statement continues. "Moreover, statements by the employees’ attorney that her clients were protesting work conditions is a fabrication and contradicts earlier statements by employees that they had planned a group outing to a local bar and wanted to match their attire.

"The facts of the situation are that employees were discharged for their efforts to harass, bully and intimidate the new office manager into quitting. Particularly upsetting is that supervisors were among those talking about the office manager using obscene and vulgar language, as well as encouraging others to disregard her instructions. Our office manager felt threatened and subsequently left the state. Since then, a private security company has been hired to protect the firm’s employees.

"We don’t hire employees just to fire them. But we will take decisive action to protect the civility and fairness of our workplace. At our firm we pride ourselves on doing what’s best for our clients, and that means taking care of employees. We enjoy an excellent reputation as a great place to work, pay highly competitive wages, and provide many fringe benefits. Relatives of employees have traditionally been hired to create a family friendly atmosphere. Those things are valued at this firm."

Earlier coverage:

ABAJournal.com: "Staffers at Florida Mortgage Law Firm Say They Were Fired for Wearing Orange"

Updated on April 13 to include statement from Wellborn.

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