(DEERFIELD BEACH, Fla.) — Six of the workers fired from a law firm in Deerfield Beach, Fla., on March 16 for wearing orange have retained a lawyer and may pursue legal action against their former employer, who allegedly would not allow workers to speak to each other over their cubicle walls.
Attorney Donna Ballman now represents six of the 14 support staff who say they were accused of staging a protest against workplace conditions and then fired abruptly, as first reported by the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.
Ballman said she has been trying to get in contact with the Elizabeth R. Wellborn law firm, where the workers had been employed, but there has not been a response.
“If they won’t discuss this, we are going to pursue our legal remedies,” Ballman said. She declined to say if the fired workers will seek damages or try to get their jobs back.
The Elizabeth R. Wellborn law firm, which may have as many as 275 employees, did not return a request for comment.
Ballman said Elizabeth Wellborn’s husband gathered most, though not all, of the employees who were wearing orange that day and they were “told that management thought they were wearing orange shirts to protest working conditions, and they should pack their things and leave,” Ballman said.
Ballman said some workers may have been wearing orange to mimic the uniform color often used by the Florida Department of Corrections. Those workers may have been protesting new work rules imposed by a new manager earlier this month. She said, for example, that they could not speak to coworkers over the walls of their cubicles, even to discuss work-related matters.
“They couldn’t go to the break room and get coffee while on the clock,” she said. “There were suddenly lots of new restrictions on them. Some of them were upset about those new rules.”
Ballman said, “Different people were wearing orange for different reasons that day, but the fact is it doesn’t matter.” She said there have been cases where firing employees because management didn’t like their shirts were found to be unlawful, including when AT&T workers wore shirts that said “Inmate #” on the front and on the back said “Prisoner of AT$T”, which was activity protected under the National Labor Relations Act.
“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,” she said. The National Labor Relations Act protects certain activities with or without a union, and gives employees the right to discuss, comment and complain about working conditions.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Magdala Louissaint, KPVI
Kathryn Vasel, CNN