How far an employer can go in setting workplace rules is the central issue of a current Deerfield Beach, Florida lawsuit. This case has implications for employers in that city, Kansas City, Pittsburg, and cities across the nation because it relates to employee rights standards strongly protected by the National Labor Relations Act.
Under the NLRA, employees are protected against hostile workplace environments and firing actions if those conditions occur due to employees protesting against employer rules, unreasonable restrictions or punitive actions. In this case, firings were levied only on employees who were wearing prison orange colored shirts to protest tightened restrictions like a ban against speaking with fellow workers over a cubicle wall.
A group of the fired employees has retained an employment discrimination attorney to represent their interest in the lawsuit filed against their employer, a large law firm. Employees were accused by managers of protesting against their employer and then were discharged abruptly. Employees were also dissatisfied with other new work rules set forth earlier in the month by a new manager. Normally accepted work activities like taking a coffee break in the designated break room were banned, upsetting employees.
The NLRA prohibits firing employees who are protesting working conditions. Whether or not the employees are part of a union does not apply; all workers are protected and should be able to discuss, comment or complain about their workplace and working conditions. The Florida employer could argue they only fired employees under the state’s “at will” presumption that applies to employees who are working without a contract.
This lawsuit is of interest to employers based in Missouri, Kansas, and other regions that must follow labor laws, including the NLRA. Workers in any state who encounter this type of problem should consult with an employment rights attorney to protect and preserve their workplace employee rights.
Source: abc, “Fired Orange Workers Couldn’t Speak Over Cubicle Walls?” Susanna Kim, March 27, 2012