Fired for Wearing the Wrong Color Shirt: The Scary Truth About Our Lack of Workplace Protections

The Republicans have been anti-union since before I was born.  Since the election of Nixon they have systematically destroyed the unions and under mined any control workers have had over their conditions at work.

One of the greatest abominations of all have been the Orwellian named “Right to Work Laws” aka “At Will Employment Laws” which leave workers with very few rights.

These right wing Republican laws give employers the right to hire and fire at will thus undermining any and all anti-discrimination measures or affirmative action measures.

Couple this with how employers have been given the right to drug test, demand people’s Face Book names and passwords and we find ourselves living in a corporate police state where we are not considered citizens with any rights.

They don’t even have to make up an excuse for terminating an employee who may well have been doing an extremely good job, regularly earning promotions.

All it takes is for a superior to get a bug up his or her ass and they can suddenly announce you are terminated.  They don’t even have to attempt to find cause unless they are trying to avoid paying unemployment.

Without unions most employees are powerless to fight a corporation, which has all sorts of mercenary lawyers under contract.

Even with a lawyer, chances are the best the terminated employee can hope for is a small settlement and blacklisting.

From Alternet:

Most American workers labor under the auspices of employment-at-will, which allows employers to hire, fire and promote for good reasons, bad reasons, or no reason at all.

By Jake Blumgart
April 3, 2012

On March 16, at least 14 employees of the Elizabeth R. Wellborn law firm, located in Deerfield Beach, Florida, wore orange shirts to work. For this style choice, they were marched into a conference room and summarily fired. Wellborn’s husband declared that the shirts were a protest against working conditions at the 275-worker law firm, and that management would not stand for such behavior. (Early reporting claimed the workers’ dress merely signified a way to easily organize a happy hour outing, although it later came out that while that was true for some, others were dressed in the color of prison uniforms to protest draconian new work rules.)

Aren’t such tyrannical, arbitrary and callous acts illegal? Can management just throw you out on your ear, upending your life and endangering your ability to support yourself, for wearing the wrong shirt? Freedom of speech, freedom of expression, right?


The First Amendment and many of the Constitution’s other protections only extend to the government, not to private employers. Freedom of speech and expression are not protected in the private-sector, nonunion workplace. You could be fired for, say, wearing a pin advocating a particular political party. You could also be fired for sporting a smiley face pin.

“People assume they have a lot more protection at work than they actually do,” says Judith M. Conti, federal advocacy coordinator for the National Employment Law Center (NELP). “People also assume they have some right to be treated decently, and fairly, and respectfully at the workplace. They have the right to freedom from discrimination based on certain immutable characteristics like sex, race and age, but as long as treatment at work isn’t related to one of those characteristics you can be treated badly with no legal recourse. It’s kind of a free-for-all.”

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