Seattle’s King5.com recently reported on the firing of a Broncos fan in Tacoma. Nathaniel Wentz, 17, worked for Odyssey1 until he wore his Broncos jersey to work. Employees were invited to show their team spirit if they were working on game day. Wentz, a long-time football and Broncos fan, wore his jersey to work. He was then sent home to change clothes because his manager meant Seattle team spirit, not any team spirit. Wentz told his father what happened and did not return to work, partly because his manager failed to speak with Wentz’s father who was displeased with the incident. But, it is generally understood that if you are sent home to change clothes that your employer expects you to return once changed. The next day, Wentz arrived at work only to discover he was fired. Wentz believes he was fired because his boss did not like his Broncos jersey. Technically, Odyssey1 terminated Wentz’s employment for failing to return to work
after he was sent home to change. The obvious miscommunication, however, did not allow Wentz’s to get his job back.
As Wentz’s story illustrates, employees can be surprised by their terminations. There are also a number of unsurprising reasons an employer may fire an employee, like failure to show or return to work. Even if termination is unexpected, employees still take their terminations seriously. Losing a job can severely affect a person’s financial, emotional, and personal situations. Wentz took his job loss so seriously he contacted news agencies. But terminations are not one-sided; employers, generally, take terminations just as seriously as their former employees. Not only do terminations create potentially costly legal situations, they also require employers to go through the hiring and training process again and, in some cases, employers are charged for and have to deal with unemployment claims.
Terminations in Washington
Washington is an “at-will” employment state. This means that both employers and employees can terminate employment for any non-discriminatory or non-retaliatory reason. For instance, Wentz could
have been fired because his employer did not like his Broncos jersey. Or Wentz could have quit because he did not like that his manager was a Seahawks fan and would not allow Broncos fans to show their team spirit. Sports team preference is not a protected category in employment law. Fortunately, employment terminations for such reasons tend to be a waste of both the employer’s and the employee’s time, and thus are rare. Whether Wentz was terminated for his team jersey or for his failure to return to work, it would appear that Wentz will not be getting his job back at Odyssey1.
If you believe you have been wrongfully terminated or want to know what your options are after a termination, a Washington employment law attorney can be of assistance.