Woman Fired for Flipping Off Trump

A viral image of a DC-areacyclist giving President Donald Trump the finger as he passes by in his motorcade has been making the rounds this week. We’re well past the period wherein pundits and commentators bemoaned the inability of the current Commander-in-Chief to be “presidential.”I think everyone watching at home–both in the United States and abroad–now understands that presidential qualities such as restraint, dignity, courtesy, and thick-skinnedness are beyond the current administration. But there’s a corollary to the fact of Trump’s corrosive and degrading behavior: his opponents don’t have to hold back either.

The cyclist pictured in this vicariously cathartic image has been identified as Julie Briskman by the Huffington Post, and the same article reported that she had been fired from her job with Akima, a local company which also does government contracting work. Virginia, where Briskman’s job was based, is an at-will-employment state, like much of the country. This allows employers to dismiss employees for almost any reason, or even no reason at all.

There are exceptions, however, including dismissing any employee for a reason that is provably discriminatory, for example a person’s race, religion, gender, or other protected classes. These sorts of things are generally difficult to prove, of course, but Akima’s explanation for parting ways with Briskman, if not carefully worded, could open them up to a wrongful termination suit.

Why was Briskman fired? Well, because she flipped off Trump, clearly. Akima admits as much. And this was a political act. Briskman had no personal relationship with the president. She is one of his several hundred million constituents, and she is not happy with the job she is doing. Her rude hand gesture is an act of political protest, protected under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

Are there exceptions to these constitutional rights? Well, as just one example, rights for people with disabilities were built up over much of the 20th century through Supreme Court decisions interpreting constitutional rights to equal free rights for all (the 14th amendment). But an employer can determine the occupational bona fides of a job, and if a person’s disability is found to prevent them from being able to do the job effectively with reasonable supports, then denying that person a job is not discrimination. If you deny a qualified person a job just because you don’t want to build a wheelchair ramp, well, then discrimination it very much is.

Likewise, if Akima, a government contractor, can clearly show that absolute political neutrality of all employees, including in their private lives and social media feeds, is genuinely necessary, they might have a case for arguing that Briskman’s freedom to protest puts her company through undue hardship and that she has to be let go.

Having examined Akima’s Code of Conduct, particularly its social media policy, which makes no mention of political neutrality, I’m not convinced. Their official argument is that the hand gesture itself was sufficiently lewd or profane to warrant an immediate firing, despite her social media page having no mention or connection to her place of work. This seems particularly flimsy.

They may be sidestepping the right to protest argument by not mentioning the political nature of her act, relying on at-will employment law to back up their state-enshrined right to dismiss someone for the pettiest of reasons. But as Briskman points out in that article, a conservative co-worker who used similarly crass language that was anti-liberal rather than anti-Trump got a pass, suggesting the selectively harsh enforcement of the policy against Briskman was related to her personal political views.

In any case, Akima’s cowardly pro-Trump act is a win for the historically unpopular president, whose efforts to muzzle the press and influence organizations like the NFL to attack his detractors on his behalfare part of a general, dictator-like strategy to trample over U.S. citizens’ constitutional rights in order to bolster his own administration. If he had his way, Trump would shut down every media organization that did not praise him, personally arrange for the financial destruction of every wealthy, famous, or otherwise influential person to use their free speech and protest rights to criticize him on whatever platforms are available to them, and undermine the legislative and judicial branches of government which serve partly as a check against tyrannical power.

It’s therefore important that everyone from blue- and white-collar workers, political representatives, journalists, athletes, and celebrities continue to use their constitutional rights to hold the Trump administration accountable. He will hit back, and there will be cowards that fold to his wishes and hit on his behalf, but an ever-increasing majority of our fellow citizens and allies from around the world are with you.

But take note, also, with your constitutional rights barely holdiing back the United States’ first wannabe dictator, this is a time to think about how much legislation is nowhere near as strong as it should be, including labor rights in the majority of at-will employment states. Legislated rights for everyday citizens are critical in times like these.

Photo Credit: Brendan Smialowski via Getty Images. Image used under fair use.

53 comments

Marty P
Marty P28 days ago

Rumour Has It....That Was Trump's Wife On The Bike!

SEND
Rhoberta E
Rhoberta E28 days ago

@ MilliSPM
Yes there are a lot of ignorant people out there.
Like trump name calling on twitter like a spoiled 2 year old.
Like extremists using the "Heil Hitler" arm gesture, or name calling or .......
Even here on C2 some members call others ignorant or stupid or worse just for an opposing opinion. I think if trump was given the finger, he MORE than deserved it.
As for our Prime Minister receiving the same gesture, I'm quite sure he has already but he actually HAS a sense of humour and is not as insecure as trump.

SEND
Philip W
Philip W28 days ago

Reposted for clarity:

Not knowing our history, people wrongly believe that our nation had noble beginnings and aspirations to level the playing field between the oppressed and the free, the rich and the poor. Howard Zinn's book "A People's History of the United States" reveals the truth of about our nation's history by those who actually experienced those moments in history. The rich and powerful use racism, religion, homophobia, deception and lies, and any tool necessary to keep Americans divided; forcing the oppressed, whether white or black or any other "difference", to be at each other's throats so they may channel the wealth into their hands.

SEND
Philip W
Philip W28 days ago

Continued:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zlmuKtyhDKg
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=61PhymlTkaA
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=czR9T4TVWng

SEND
Philip W
Philip W28 days ago

Continued:

True Americans protect the freedoms of other Americans, and they notice when injustice is being practiced. It is un-American to force your beliefs, prejudices, and ideologies on others. American soldiers fought and died fighting against that type of tyranny and injustice.

Not knowing our history, people wrongly believe that our nation had noble beginnings and aspirations to level the playing field between the oppressed and the free, the rich and the poor. Howard Zinn’s book “A People's History of the United States” reveals the truth of about our nation’s history by those who actually experienced those moments in history. The rich and powerful use racism, religion, homophobia, deception and lies, and any tool necessary to keep Americans divided; forcing the oppressed, whether white or black or any other “difference”, to be at each other’s throats so they may channel the wealth into their hands.

Besides, the hyperbole spewing "pussy-grabber" has suffered far worse indignities from his own mouth. And others have shown that Trump has been flipping Americans the finger all along:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=94nwYhT6PIo
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iNT8zHrGdAA
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DadDQ6IAFRI
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XhebmG148Zo

SEND
Philip W
Philip W28 days ago

"If I did that to your hero Hillary, I would be rotting in a cell somewhere." - MilliSiteProbs M

What is it with the ridiculous, shameless hyperbole? There has been far more actual aggression against Americans who are against Trump, without subsequent consequences. The unscrupulous easily manipulate those who act on their fear and agitating passions (Tweet, Tweet).

I have seen bumper stickers, with "Kill-her-y" printed on them, trying to incite deadly violence against Hillary Clinton, which is far worse than flipping the finger, whether you like her or not.

Giving Trump the middle finger salute was the best wishes Julie Briskman could muster, she has the right to dissent. No one has to agree with anything that Trump says or does. We can even impeach him or vote him out if we want to, this is America. The majority of Americans today would love to say to Trump, "You are Fired!"

Much like the patriotic NFL players who are dissenting for everyone’s equality and freedom. No gesture of allegiance is more important than our Constitutional right to practice that gesture or NOT to practice it. No one HAS to stand for the National Anthem and no one HAS to say the Pledge of Allegiance, especially if they are being oppressed. This is not Nazi Germany where we would be forced to give the Nazi salute (it was mandatory for civilians, and later for the military after the attempted assassination of Hitler).

SEND
Richard A
Richard A29 days ago

G. W. Bush's motorcade accidentally ran over several people during his reign in office. Perhaps Juli Briskman is lucky that did not happen to her.

SEND
Christine Stewart
Christine S29 days ago

too bad she didn't just give him a thumb's down. I agree with her desire to flip him off, however!

SEND
Marianne C
Marianne C29 days ago

As of two days ago, she has received almost a quarter of a million job offers from all over the country. Flipping off Trump seems to have been a career-building move -- as well it should be!

SEND
One Heart inc
One Heart incabout a month ago

Thanks!!!
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cABVKIPk_u0

SEND