Woman Fired for 'Flipping Off' the President; Was it Legal?
Company claimed off-duty action violated code of conduct
Can you be fired for your political views? What about your off-hours conduct?
How about your behavior on social media?
For many people, it's harder than ever to compartmentalize the personal
and professional aspects of life.
Just ask Juli Briskman, a woman who was recently fired for "flipping
off" President Trump's motorcade. Let's take a look at what
happened to her, and then discuss what you should know about at-will employment.
Sending a message
Briskman was riding her bike one day recently when she saw President Trump's
motorcade leaving a golf course. As the line of vehicles when by, Briskman
raised her middle finger.
A few minutes later, the motorcade slowed and Briskman caught up with it.
Once again, she raised her middle finger. This time, a member of the press
photographed her action. The image went viral nearly immediately.
Amused by the incident, Briskman posted the photo as her profile picture
on her social media accounts. The yoga studio where Briskman taught on
the side reported that it was getting threats. Briskman removed any mentions
of the business from her online profiles.
She decided to head off similar trouble at her day job. When she went to
work the next day, she disclosed the incident to her managers. She was
immediately dismissed for violating the company's code of conduct,
even though the incident had happened during nonwork hours.
Briskman claims that her termination is unfair. She alleges that earlier
in the year, a male colleague was reprimanded for using a vulgar slur
on social media. He was asked to remove the comment but was allowed to
retain his job.
So the question is, was Briskman fired unlawfully?
The state of Virginia, where Briskman lives, is an at-will employment state.
At-will employment means that employers generally have the right to terminate
an employee at any time, for any lawful reason, or for no reason at all,
without legal consequences.
Although at-will employment does allow employers quite a bit of leeway,
it’s important to remember that employers do not have carte blanche
to fire people indiscriminately.
For example, employees may not be fired because of factors that pertain
to their age, race, sex, religion, or other protected categories.
In Briskman's case, the company may have been justified in terminating
her solely on the basis of the viral incident. However, if Briskman can
show that her male coworker wasn't terminated for a similar incident,
she may be able to make a claim for sex discrimination.
Contact us today
If you believe that you have been terminated, reprimanded, or treated unfairly
for a discriminatory reason, it’s a good idea to speak to an attorney.
Call or email us today to discuss your unique situation.