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What is the price to pay for wearing a Green Bay Packers tie to work in Chicago? For John Stone, the price was his job at Webb Chevrolet.
Stone says he wore the tie to honor his late grandmother, who loved the Packers. Stone's grandmother was buried on Friday. However, general manager Jerry Roberts ordered Stone to remove the tie or else he would be fired.
Stone, believing that Roberts had to be joking, returned to work with the tie intact. He was approached by Roberts an hour later while on the showroom floor. Roberts demanded that Stone remove the tie. John Stone declined, and Roberts fired him.
"I didn't know you could get fired for wearing a tie ... I'm supposed to dress up. I'm a car salesman," Stone told the Chicago Tribune.
But could Stone's version of the facts really be true? Surely Stone's boss had a different take. When he was asked by WGN-TV whether he fired Stone over the Packers tie, Roberts replied, "Correct."
So is it legal to fire an employee over wearing a tie? Assuming that Stone was an at-will employee, generally, yes. At-will employment is an employment relationship in which all parties can break the relationship. Therefore, the employer can terminate an employee for good cause, or bad cause, or no cause at all, and the employee is free to quit at any time.
That doesn't mean that it's wise to just go around firing people, willy nilly. Legal or not, any time you terminate an employee you open yourself up to some liability. Even if you believe that you terminated an employee legally, they may make a claim that they are being illegally discriminated against.
According to Roberts, the tie was a problem because the dealership had done promotions with the Chicago Bears. "I don't feel that it was appropriate for him to go directly in contrast with an advertising campaign that we spent a lot of money on," said Roberts, WGN reports. Roberts added, "If he loves the tie more than his job, he's welcome to keep wearing it -- elsewhere," Roberts told the Chicago Sun-Times.