Seattle Employer Question: Can I fire my employee because he wears a Broncos jersey to work?
Generic Lawyer: Yes.
Generic Lawyer: Should you? No.
The headlines that accompany the story behind this back and forth are a little misleading. Last Sunday, a Seattle employer told his his staff they could wear football attire to support the team, presumably the Seahawks. Instead of wearing a Seahawks jersey, 17 year old Nathaniel Wentz wore a Bronco’s jersey, his favorite team. When he arrived at work he was told to go home and change – he was not fired. Instead of returning to work he quit and the rest as they say is history.
At-will employment in Texas is a fairly simple proposition. I can fire you for any non-discriminatory reason and you can quit for any reason. Yes, there are some exceptions. So, an employee could be fired for wearing the wrong jersey to work, which did not occur in this case. Really, this case illustrates the power the employee has to quit – Wentz unhappy that his employer told him he could not sport his Broncos jersey decided to quit, as he is permitted to do. It is the other side of the at-will doctrine.
The Seattle employer, Odyssey 1 is in the business of indoor childrens’ games like laser tag and jungle gyms. I doubt its owners were anticipating a national story about their jersey policy but so it goes. My guess is they might make a different decision if they had to do it over again and let young Wentz keep his jersey on the day. After all, this was before the SuperBowl match up was even decided.