In a photo that went viral, Juli Briskman flips off President Trump’s motorcade as it leaves the golf course. Ms. Briskman, who had been employed by Akima LLC (a government contractor), was later fired after alerting Human Resources that she is the woman in the photo. She was purportedly fired for violating the company's code of conduct and social medial policy for using the (allegedly “obscene”) photo as her social media profile picture.
Ms. Briskman does not appear to be challenging her termination but did point out, in an interview, that a male colleague posted obscene comments on Facebook – including calling someone “a fucking libtard” – but was only reprimanded and not fired.
Is that an issue? As we've written many times before, at will employees can be fired at any time for any reason as long as the reason is not protected discrimination or retaliation. So, if your employer thinks something you post on social media is offensive, you can typically be fired (unless your comments constitute protected workplace speech under the National Labor Relations Act or, if you are a public employee, fall under limited First Amendment protections). There is also, in the private workplace, generally no such thing as political party discrimination. So, if Ms. Briskman was fired for being a liberal, but the male employee was not because he is a conservative, that is unlikely to be illegal either.
What can be illegal? Sex discrimination. So, if Ms. Briskman was treated less favorably than the male employee because she is a woman, that could be a problem for the employer. But, based on the limited information available, it seems more that Ms. Briskman was fired because her photo went viral, her “speech” was directed to the President, and her employer is a government contractor.
If this is a topic that interests you, our article about Colin Kaepernick's take-a-knee demonstration includes links to other articles we've written about political speech at work and participating in demonstrations or protests.
If you feel you have been wrongfully terminated because of protected speech or because of discrimination or retaliation, give us a call. We are happy to see if there is anything we can do.