Juli Briskman, who became internet-famous for flipping off the presidential motorcade while biking, was fired for her notoriety. She shared the image to her Facebook page, which made no mention of her employer, government contractor Akima, LLC. Nevertheless, the company fired her, citing its social media policy barring obscenity. But her employer also admitted fear of federal retaliation. Now, Briskman is fighting back with the help of the Geller Law Group and Protect Democracy.
Criticism of our leaders should be encouraged. For a government contractor to fire me for fear of govt. retaliation is an affront to that right & to our democracy @protctdemocracy @GellerLawyers #LongMaySheWave https://t.co/Q3CWhP7KF7
— juli_briskman (@julibriskman) April 5, 2018
Lawyers for Briskman allege Akima violated both state and federal law.
“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.
Akima’s going to have trouble justifying her firing as social media-related. The complaint notes that another employee whose Facebook page did affiliate him with Akima posted, “You’re a fucking Libtard asshole” in response to discussion of Black Lives Matter.
Among other good signs, Briskman’s got Tribe on her side. Laurence Tribe, that is, a legal superstar who served in the Obama administration and currently teaches at Harvard Law.
When a federal contractor, in order to keep the governmentÃ¢ÂÂs business, fires someone for giving the finger Ã°ÂÂÂÃ°ÂÂÂ½on her own time to a passing presidential motorcade, the contractor is undermining freedom of speech and must be held accountable for unlawful discharge Ã°ÂÂÂÃ°ÂÂÂ¼ https://t.co/p8votElaFN
— Laurence Tribe (@tribelaw) April 5, 2018
Even extra-legally speaking, Briskman’s in a good spot. She’s won public opinion; she could also win a settlement, if Akima would rather settle than continue to draw attention to the conflict.
One has to wonder why Akima didn’t do so before this suit became public, given that their grounds for firing Briskman were ostensibly based on the promulgation of the image that will now accompany every story about the lawsuit.