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Matching orange shirts get workers fired

Forget about seeing red. Managers at a Florida law firm reportedly saw orange and fired everyone wearing the color.

A group of 14 workers were handed pink slips because they all wore orange shirts to work last Friday, according to a story in the Sun Sentinel this weekend. The law firm isn’t commenting on the mass firing, but some employees are claiming they were fired for the innocent act of just wanting to match their outfits.

This workplace color clash opens the question of whether workers have any legal rights when they're canned or demoted for their fashion choices. 

Former employees of Elizabeth R. Wellborn law firm in Deerfield Beach, FL, said they chose to wear orange en masse last week because they were planning to go to happy hour together and wanted to distinguish themselves as a group for the night’s festivities.

A person answering the phone at the law firm who would not give her name said "we don't have any comment right now."

But a group of fired workers, who could not be immediately reached by TODAY on Monday, told their story to the Sun Sentinel last week. “We decided to wear orange,” said Janice Doble, a terminated employee and a lover of all things orange.

On Friday, she said, management at the law firm told her and the other workers that their fashion choice was considered threatening and they were all being fired as a result. “I think it was an excuse to fire all these people,” she maintained.

Excuse or not, there are few laws protecting employees when it comes to their fashion choices if workers don’t have an employment contract or are part of a union.

“Unless they are in a state with a specific law on point, such a termination would be lawful,” said Hanan Kolko, an employment attorney.

Florida, among other states, is an at-will work state and that means employers can pretty much fire you for whatever reason, except when it comes to discriminating against a particular group.

If you have to wear a certain outfit for religious reasons that right is protected under labor laws, but even then, you may be restricted from wearing certain garments if they impede the work you do or pose a safety issue.

Some employees at the law firm said they were told management saw their matching orange shirts as some sort of sign of protest. The workers denied it was a protest, but ironically, if they had worn the shirts as an act of solidarity to protest a workplace issue they may also have been protected under collective bargaining laws that protect concerted efforts among employees to better things such as wages or working conditions.

But just wearing a certain color shirt, or any other garment, because you feel like it, isn’t protected.

Most employers are pretty open-minded when it comes to what their employees can wear.

About 55 percent of employers offer casual dress at least once a week, and 36 percent allow casual dress everyday, according to a study by the Society of Human Resource Management.

So that means orange shirts, or any color, probably goes in most U.S. workplaces even if they’re supposedly a no no at Elizabeth R. Wellborn’s law firm.

Unfortunately for Wellborn, totally banning orange may be tough this year. The hot color at New York Fashion Week last month was, you guessed it, orange. 

This story has been corrected from an earlier version.