A Virginia woman who lost her job with a government contractor after she was photographed extending her middle finger at President Trump’s motorcade last year has sued her former employer for wrongful termination.
Juli Briskman directed the gesture toward a string of black sport utility vehicles that zoomed by her on her bicycle on Oct. 28, as Mr. Trump’s motorcade was leaving Trump National Golf Course in Sterling, Va. Reporters and photographers in a car behind her captured the moment, which quickly spread online and became a source of many jokes on late-night television. But Ms. Briskman’s employer, Akima L.L.C., did not find it funny. When she returned to work the following week, she said, company executives told her she needed to resign. Ms. Briskman, 50, had violated the company’s social media policy on obscenity by sharing the image on Facebook and Twitter, they told her, according to the lawsuit filed on Wednesday in Fairfax County Circuit Court in Virginia. The executives also feared blowback from the Trump administration, lawyers for Ms. Briskman said in the lawsuit. “Akima’s actions — forcing Juli to resign out of fear of unlawful retaliation by the government — violated the basic tenets of Virginia employment law,” one of them, Maria Simon, said in a statement. “Ms. Briskman chose in her private time and in her capacity as a private citizen to express her disapproval of President Trump by extending her middle finger.” Her lawyers assert that Ms. Briskman’s gesture was “core political speech” protected by Virginia law and the Constitution. She is seeking $2,692 for two weeks of severance she said she was promised but never received, as well as compensation for legal fees. “Criticism of our leaders should be encouraged,” Ms. Briskman, who did not return calls seeking comment, said on Twitter on Thursday. “For a government contractor to fire me for fear of govt. retaliation is an affront to that right & to our democracy.” Akima, which has government contracts in areas that include network operations, cybersecurity and national security, did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Thursday morning. Virginia is
an at-will state, meaning employers can freely fire an employee at any time and for any reason. There are a few exceptions, such as when a termination violates federal discrimination laws. In an interview in November, Ms. Briskman said she threw her left hand in the air in a spur-of-the-moment gesture to express her displeasure with Mr. Trump. She said she did not know how many people saw it, other than a Secret Service agent in a vehicle who she believed glanced over at her. But many people did end up seeing it. After the photo was shared widely online that weekend, Ms. Briskman said she posted it on Facebook and Twitter. Neither account identified her as an Akima employee, where she was a marketing analyst. Source https://www.nytimes.com/2018/04/05/us/juli-briskman-middle-finger-trump.html