What is it about offices that inspires some managers to become dictators? Anyone who’s ever worked at a place with an arbitrary dress code or a completely rigid schedule can relate. But some offices are crazier than others. For example, we have a law firm in Deerfield Beach, Florida, which recently fired 14 workers for infractions that seem like something George Orwell would be embarrassed to dream up:
1. Wearing Orange
You are not reading that wrong. The major reason the workers were fired, allegedly, was that they showed up to work one day wearing orange shirts. The law firm took this as a sign that they were protesting working conditions. (Prisoners wear orange jumpsuits in Florida, so the idea was that they were wearing the color to draw parallels between their situation and that of prisoners. No word on whether they were forced to shower together or feared shivving in the lunchroom.)
“Orange happens to be my favorite color. My patio is orange,” Janice Doble told the Sun-Sentinel. Doble was one of the recently-terminated employees who is now suing her former employer. “My lipstick was orange today.”
2. Getting Coffee
During working hours, employees were not allowed to go to the break room to get coffee. Caffeine was not the major objection, here. Apparently, the firm feared that workers would use their break time to discuss their working conditions.
To which we can only say: If you want to see people discuss their working conditions, just forbid them from getting coffee. That’s a great way to make production grind to a screeching halt at almost every office we’ve ever heard of.
3. Talking Over Cubicle Walls
Attorney Donna Ballman, who represents six out of the 14 fired employees, says that workers were not allowed to talk to each other over office cubicle walls. Again, the intention was probably to keep them from fomenting rebellion, a goal that’s problematic no matter how you slice it.
As ABC news points out, the National Labor Relations Act protects workers’ rights to talk about their working conditions — even if those workers aren’t in a union. That includes complaining about those conditions, we assume even over cubicle walls.
As ridiculous as these rules sound, the law firm that created them isn’t a rogue, isolated company. Making up dumb rules for employees seems to be something of a pastime with organizations. Other strange rules we found other companies enforcing include:
The guy who made this complaint said he also gets yelled at for being too loud on the phone … a problem that is easily solved by letting him close his office door.
Somehow, this is even dumber than just having casual Fridays. How do you decide which day is the day to wear jeans? And if jeans are so evil, so destructive to order and reason and the company’s bottom line, why have that one day at all? It seems to us that either jeans are the first sign of the sartorial apocalypse, or they aren’t. Make up your minds, HR people.