Woman fired for giving Trump’s motorcade the bird

This is a story about the conflict between freedom of speech and a company’s desire to maintain its image. The story has  been recounted widely, but most extensively in the HuffPo, so, sadly, I’ll link to their account.

Juli Briskman is a 50-year old woman, a liberal, who was biking to work about week ago when Donald Trump and his motorcade were leaving a golf course in Virginia. As they went by, Briskman instinctively did what many of us would do: she flipped the bird to the motorcade. Unfortunately, a White House photographer snapped her picture at that moment:

A woman on a bike gestures with her middle finger as a motorcade with US President Donald Trump departs Trump National Golf Course October 28, 2017 in Sterling, Virginia. / AFP PHOTO

The photo went viral online, to the point where Briskman unwisely (it turned out) decided to use it as her Facebook profile photo. That, I suppose, is how they identified her, since you can’t tell who she is from the photo above.

Briskman works for the construction company Akima LLC, which does a lot of government work, and she decided she’d better tell her Human Resources office about the picture. The next day she was fired:

By Tuesday, her bosses called her into a meeting and said she had violated the company’s social media policy by using the photo as her profile picture on Twitter and Facebook.

“They said, ‘We’re separating from you,‘” said Briskman. “Basically, you cannot have ‘lewd’ or ‘obscene’ things in your social media. So they were calling flipping him off ‘obscene.’”

Briskman, who worked in marketing and communications at Akima for just over six months, said she emphasized to the executives that she wasn’t on the job when the incident happened and that her social media pages don’t mention her employer. They told her that because Akima was a government contractor, the photo could hurt their business, she said.

Virginia is an employment-at-will state, meaning employers can fire people anytime and for any reason. But Briskman said what’s been particularly infuriating is that a male colleague kept his job after recently posting lewd comments on his Facebook page that featured Akima LLC as his cover photo. She said this colleague was reprimanded for calling someone “a fucking Libtard asshole” on Facebook, but was allowed to delete the post and keep his job.

Clearly, Briskman’s action did constitute legal freedom of speech: she didn’t violate the law. But she didn’t have the right to keep her job, either.  This disturbs me for two reasons. First, in “employment at will” states you can’t just say or do whatever you want, even if it’s legal, without facing unemployment.  Your freedom of speech doesn’t give you freedom to keep your job. I can understand the company’s rationale and all, but it doesn’t seem right.

Second, there’s the double standard in which a male colleague did essentially the same thing as Brisman but was allowed to keep his job and just delete his post. Somehow, it seems, being nasty to Trump is a more heinous offense. (I suppose I can understand the company’s position: you can lose more business by dissing Trump than dissing a random person on Facebook).

According to HuffPo, Briskman isn’t too bothered about her firing, and hopes to get a job in a more progressive company, one itself engaged in activism. I wish her well. But somehow I think the company should have been more understanding, tolerating a degree of public dissent. Most states in the U.S. are in fact “employment-at-will states,” though there are specific exceptions, which means that in most places she could be fired for her actions. I suspect, though, that if there’s unequal treatment of employees who do the same thing, it becomes a legal matter.

My question is this: “Even if it was legal to fire Briskman for her actions, was it the ethical thing to do?”  You can weigh in below. But first look at this amusing graphic that someone posted on Briskman’s Facebook page:

h/t: Woody

187 Comments

  1. GBJames
    Posted November 6, 2017 at 1:20 pm | Permalink

    It was not the ethical thing to do. (Firing her.) Not even close.

    • Curtis
      Posted November 6, 2017 at 2:24 pm | Permalink

      Assume that Akima loses one government contract because of her actions and ends up firing 5 people due to loss of work. The fact that her actions went viral gave Akima no choice.

      • GBJames
        Posted November 6, 2017 at 2:30 pm | Permalink

        But there was nothing linking the photo to Akima until she mentioned it to HR, as I understand it. Her Facebook presence did not mention her employer. Did I misread?

        • drdrish
          Posted November 6, 2017 at 3:34 pm | Permalink

          Akima has a policy that employees cannot post obscene photos, etc. on social media. Briskman violated that policy.

          • GBJames
            Posted November 6, 2017 at 3:51 pm | Permalink

            Flipping the bird is obscene? Disrespectful, sure. But obscene? Really?

            • Posted November 6, 2017 at 9:14 pm | Permalink

              It is widely considered an obscene gesture. There are worse, but it does cross that line imo.

              • GBJames
                Posted November 7, 2017 at 6:56 am | Permalink

                Then I suppose if she said “Fuck that shit.” That would also be obscene and cause for firing?

                This company acted legally, but it also acted unethically.

        • Curtis
          Posted November 6, 2017 at 3:59 pm | Permalink

          Once she took credit for it on Facebook and Twitter, her connection to Akima was going to come out. I do not know whether she went to HR before or after Akima was mentioned publicly.

          She brought unwanted publicity to her company and she was fired. That’s life regardless of whether you think Trump is the devil or the messiah.

          • GBJames
            Posted November 6, 2017 at 4:13 pm | Permalink

            You know that how?

            I’m only going on the basis of reading the story that PCC[e] linked to. It is clear that the company’s unwanted publicity is a consequence of their decision to fire her.

            From the article:

            “As the photo circulated online, Briskman decided to tell Akima’s HR department what was happening when she went to work on Monday. By Tuesday, her bosses called her into a meeting and said she had violated the company’s social media policy by using the photo as her profile picture on Twitter and Facebook.”

            • Curtis
              Posted November 6, 2017 at 4:27 pm | Permalink

              How do I know? Some fanatical Trump supporter would have made it their cause to find her and would have succeeded. The same would happen with Obama.

      • yazikus
        Posted November 6, 2017 at 8:10 pm | Permalink

        Since when are government contracts awarded based on deference to the current president? How exactly would government work go away because of this photo?

  2. John A
    Posted November 6, 2017 at 1:26 pm | Permalink

    Presumably the line “land of the free” is sarcastic.

    • busterggi
      Posted November 6, 2017 at 1:54 pm | Permalink

      When has it ever really been free?

    • drdrish
      Posted November 6, 2017 at 3:14 pm | Permalink

      No, it isn’t “sarcastic.” An employer is “free” to fire people who violate company policy. Juli Briskman has two children. What sort of example is she setting for them when she acts like a 15-year-old brat and makes an obscene gesture toward the president or anyone else? If I had been her employer, I would have fired her, though I hope would never be so careless as to hire someone that immature.

      • busterggi
        Posted November 6, 2017 at 3:38 pm | Permalink

        ” What sort of example is she setting for them when she acts like a 15-year-old brat and makes an obscene gesture toward the president or anyone else?’

        i dunno, looks like an hommage considering what the POTUS has done.

        • Curtis
          Posted November 6, 2017 at 4:29 pm | Permalink

          “He did it first.”
          “No, you did it first.”

      • John A
        Posted November 6, 2017 at 7:21 pm | Permalink

        What!? She wasn’t working at the time. You think it’s ok for a company to fire someone for giving the bird “to anyone”? Christ, I’m soooo glad I’m not American.

        • BJ
          Posted November 7, 2017 at 10:06 am | Permalink

          It’s not about being American. While I personally wouldn’t have fired her, she insulted what is essentially her company’s employer, and then bragged about it on the internet.

          I likened it to this situation when discussing it with a friend: if you owned a company that made in-store displays for Benadryl, and one of your employees posted on their Facebook page that Benadryl is a piece of shit, hateful product that nobody should respect, would you continue employing her? I wouldn’t.

          I don’t like that she got fired and wouldn’t have fired her myself, buy I understand why she did and it has nothing to do with freedom of speech or any other such things. It’s about an employees role in and being a representative of a company, nothing more.

          • GBJames
            Posted November 7, 2017 at 10:29 am | Permalink

            Equating the US government with Donald J. tRump is a bit of a stretch, don’t you think?

            • BJ
              Posted November 7, 2017 at 11:48 am | Permalink

              No.

              • GBJames
                Posted November 7, 2017 at 12:05 pm | Permalink

                Silly me. I didn’t think we’d descended into complete dictatorship yet.

              • BJ
                Posted November 7, 2017 at 12:26 pm | Permalink

                How witty

              • BJ
                Posted November 7, 2017 at 2:07 pm | Permalink

                GBJames: I apologize for my equally curt response. My point was that the President is the head of government in the US. Moreover, he chooses the headsame of the various departments that dole out contracts for government work. Like a CEO, who delegates to others which contractors to choose and other nitty-gritty operations, he is still, ultimately, the “boss” of the “company. “

              • GBJames
                Posted November 7, 2017 at 2:56 pm | Permalink

                Apology accepted. But…

                The US government is not a company. A president is not a CEO of a company. The president doesn’t get to fire people because he doesn’t like how they express themselves on political matters off the job, with the obvious exception of political appointees. Democratic governments are not businesses.

                The Benadryl analogy is simply bad.

              • BJ
                Posted November 7, 2017 at 5:05 pm | Permalink

                You may think what you like, but the President is, essentially, the boss of the people who give the contracts. You can argue the semantics of it all you want, but the situations are close enough that, whether we like what happened here or not, it makes sense.

              • GBJames
                Posted November 7, 2017 at 5:13 pm | Permalink

                This is not semantics. The differences between democratic government and private business are profound. In a private business the CEO can, at will, direct actions of workers with far more latitude than a president has. You may, for example, have noticed that there has been considerable discussion of late about what the president can do and what he can not do when it comes to dismissing the Special Prosecutor Mueller. He can’t direct the actions of anyone within the legislative branch or those who work for the judicial branch.

                Semantics? Really?

              • BJ
                Posted November 8, 2017 at 8:13 am | Permalink

                Literally none of what you’re saying has anything to do with the point I have made over and over and over again: the President is the head of the government, her company is contracted by the government, she insulted the head of the organization that gives her company its business. There is no other point I have made. All your talk of difference between democratic governments and corporations is irrelevant to what I’ve said. The President did not fire her. The department that gives the contracts did not fire her. She insulted the head of the *client organization.* It has nothing to do with corporate or governmental structures because the US government is the *client.* Her company is the one with hiring and firing power.

              • GBJames
                Posted November 8, 2017 at 8:26 am | Permalink

                Since you seem incapable of distinguishing a president from the US government I think we’ll just have to agree to disagree.

      • Michael Waterhouse
        Posted November 6, 2017 at 9:13 pm | Permalink

        Employers have lots of freedom it seems.
        Do employees have the freedom to organize and take measures against unreasonable dismissals, or are there laws against that?

        Good ol’ freedom.

        • Diane G.
          Posted November 7, 2017 at 2:24 am | Permalink

          Unions are in decline here and sadly have been for some time.

          • Michael Waterhouse
            Posted November 11, 2017 at 11:05 am | Permalink

            Is the decline due to rightwing politics, lack of interest, bad PR, or perhaps a combination?

            Here there are constant pushes by the conservatives to restrict rights and diminish the strength of unions, while enhancing rights of employers. Although I am lucky to be on of the good ones still remaining.

            But I think America is much worse, perhaps due to the pervasive anti communist propoganda where any hint of social good can get labeld ‘communist’ therfore bad.
            And of course the simple fact of the power and self interest of corperations.

      • wetherjeff
        Posted November 7, 2017 at 6:46 am | Permalink

        Is that the land of the ‘free’ that has the highest prison population on the earth, and is second in the rate of incarceration, above of El Salvador and Turkmenistan? Where you can go to war at 18 and get your legs blown off, but aren’t ‘free’ relax with a beer when you get home? Where, in the vast majority of the country you are not ‘free’ to gamble? Where you can be made bankrupt by medical bills after losing your health insurance because your employer didn’t like your socks? Where a judge can force you to undertake a Christian ‘rehab’ program to stay out of jail , which is actually nothing more than modern slavery and flies in the face of constitutionally enshrined freedom of religion? Where you have the freedom to own a military grade semi-auto rifle (which can obviously maim and kill very many people), but will be arrested and thrown in jail for possession of personal drugs which will only hurt yourself? Where in 2016 more people were executed than Malaysia, Indonesia and Afghanistan combined? Where an immature and foolish young adult can be locked up forever for a trivial offence without chance of parole under the three strikes law? Where as a child you are forced to pledge allegiance to your great country every morning. There are many words I could use to describe such a country but free isn’t one of them.

        • BJ
          Posted November 7, 2017 at 10:08 am | Permalink

          The countries you mention that have lower prison populations also have far higher crime rates and far lower rates of criminals being apprehended because those countries aren’t exactly the most functional (and their police forces — not to mention governments — are horribly corrupt).

          Even if one removed every non-violent offender from the prison population (besides those who were arrested for dealing drugs in high quantities without using violence), the US would still have the biggest prison population.

          • Mark R.
            Posted November 7, 2017 at 12:03 pm | Permalink

            A 12/2016 study by the Brennan Center for Justice (from NYU School of law) revealed this:

            We found that approximately 39% of the nationwide prison population (576,000 people) is behind bars with little public safety rationale. And they can be released, significantly and safely cutting our prison population.

            How did we get to this number? First, many people who are in prison shouldn’t have been sent there in the first place. For example, we found that 25% of prisoners (364,000 people), almost all non-violent, lower-level offenders, would be better served by alternatives to incarceration such as treatment, community service, or probation. Second, another 14% (212,000 prisoners) have already served long sentences for more serious crimes and can be safely set free.

            Releasing these inmates would save $20 billion annually, enough to employ 270,000 new police officers, 360,000 probation officers, or 327,000 school teachers.

            So with this I refute your last paragraph’s tone of: “we can’t do anything to alleviate the situation because we’ll still have the largest prison population”. That’s silly; we can start somewhere, and we should.

            • BJ
              Posted November 7, 2017 at 12:27 pm | Permalink

              I didn’t say there’s no way we can alleviate it. I said that releasing all low-level non-violent offenders (the solution most often proposed) wouldn’t reduce us to a level lower than any other country. There are several ways to alleviate the situation, some of them explained in the study you posted.

        • biz
          Posted November 7, 2017 at 11:53 am | Permalink

          That post was a frustrating mix of valid points and ridiculous out-of-context propaganda.

          • Diane G.
            Posted November 8, 2017 at 4:28 am | Permalink

            Personally, I only saw valid points.

      • Dave B
        Posted November 7, 2017 at 2:07 pm | Permalink

        You’re right! The only 15 year old brat allowed is the 72 year old senile old fart in the adult day care center formerly known as “The White House”, a fine example of hiring someone far to immature for the job.

  3. steve oberski
    Posted November 6, 2017 at 1:33 pm | Permalink

    As the hardest working president ever, this is obviously fake news as Trump has no time to play golf.

  4. mordacious1
    Posted November 6, 2017 at 1:34 pm | Permalink

    It’s generally unwise to allow your employees to flip off the ceo of the only organization that is legally allowed to buy your product. Freedom of speech does not protect you from the wrath of your employer.

    • Gregory Kusnick
      Posted November 6, 2017 at 2:04 pm | Permalink

      If you click through to their website, you’ll see that Akima claims to have customers “across the U.S., Middle East, Europe and Asia”. So apparently the Executive branch of the US government is not the only organization legally allowed to buy their products.

      • mordacious1
        Posted November 6, 2017 at 2:18 pm | Permalink

        In order to sell to any of those places, they have to get permission from the US government.

        • Gregory Kusnick
          Posted November 6, 2017 at 2:24 pm | Permalink

          You’re saying they need permission from the US government to sell to non-government customers in the US?

          • mordacious1
            Posted November 6, 2017 at 3:49 pm | Permalink

            Just the stuff that deals with sensitive tech in the defense industry, which appears to be a good portion of what they do. The government controls that stuff tightly (not that there’s a big market for it in the US outside of the defense industry).

  5. dogugotw
    Posted November 6, 2017 at 1:34 pm | Permalink

    Businesses exist to make a profit not to be ethical. They can protect their brand as they see fit. Free speech prevents the government from suppressing speech.

    Having said that, i certainly support changes to tax law that favor ethical behavior, more civic engagement, and improved employee protections by until that happy day employee beware.

  6. Curtis
    Posted November 6, 2017 at 1:35 pm | Permalink

    She decided to perform a vulgar action in public and it went viral. As a marketer, she should understand that companies do not want this as part of their public image. Government contractors especially do not want to be associated with political vulgarity and, of course, she was fired. It was the publicity not the action that doomed her.

    Her colleague action may have be worse but it was not viral and therefor did not have the potential harm for the company.

    • darrelle
      Posted November 6, 2017 at 2:23 pm | Permalink

      Flipping off a Trump motorcade? I want that as part of my company image.

      • Curtis
        Posted November 6, 2017 at 4:02 pm | Permalink

        I am sure that some companies would like it and others would not.

        If you get in the lime light, your company may or may not want to be associated with you. If she as, a marketer, did not understand this, then she should be fired for incompetence.

        • darrelle
          Posted November 6, 2017 at 4:17 pm | Permalink

          The OP was asking what people think about the ethics of this issue, not what people’s understanding of the law is, or their understanding of the typical behavior of companies is.

          The question is what kind of society do we want to try and become, not what kind of society do we live in right now. That’s just stating the obvious.

          Besides, the woman doesn’t seem to give much of a shit about being fired. Who knows? Perhaps she wasn’t thinking along those lines at all. Perhaps she was thinking that a company shitty enough to fire her for something like this under these circumstances is a company she’d rather not work for.

          • Curtis
            Posted November 6, 2017 at 4:35 pm | Permalink

            Keeping her on might seem like it would be ethical but at what cost? Lower profits and firing other people?

            Ethics are different for people and companies. Most companies goal is to make a profit by making better widgets, making customers happy, hiring more people, make more customers happy, etc. The invisible hand ends up making greedy people serve the greater community.

            • Gregory Kusnick
              Posted November 6, 2017 at 5:49 pm | Permalink

              Unfortunately, above a certain size threshold the incentive structure shifts from making better widgets to lobbying politicians. Subsidies, bailouts, regulatory loopholes, and liability waivers boost profits at the expense of the greater community, by transferring costs to the public sector. At that point the invisible hand becomes a pickpocket reaching into taxpayers’ wallets.

              • Curtis
                Posted November 6, 2017 at 11:01 pm | Permalink

                Absolutely.

            • darrelle
              Posted November 7, 2017 at 7:46 am | Permalink

              I understand precisely what you are saying but I clearly wasn’t clear myself. The goal is a society in which flipping off the president’s motorcade wouldn’t inspire anyone to therefore refuse to contract with the company the flipper works for, and therefore would not lead to lower profits or the company firing other employees, and therefore would not inspire the company to fire the flipper in fear of losing business.

              Yes, it’s human nature for humans to behave in those ways. And it is individual humans’ behaviors, all affecting each other to be sure, but it’s all individuals interacting that make up companies, markets, economies and societies. However, we are capable of changing, some, in some ways, as evidenced by human history. It is what it is, I agree, but I don’t think it has to stay that way. I think it is possible to create markets that work as well or better than what exists now without having to rely on the baser human behaviors and the negative consequences that come with doing so, this issue for example, quite so much as we do now.

  7. Randall Schenck
    Posted November 6, 2017 at 1:41 pm | Permalink

    She should be promoted. Shows initiative and quick thinking on a bicycle. What firing her does is show the company for the petty outfit they are and what they need are a few clients calling to tell them just that. Hell, she could have been fingering the car. Maybe she does not like Suburbans.

    • darrelle
      Posted November 6, 2017 at 2:23 pm | Permalink

      +1

    • Randall Schenck
      Posted November 6, 2017 at 2:51 pm | Permalink

      At the rate we are going here, next thing you know she will no longer be able to go out and buy an assault rifle. Just imagine!

      • Michael Waterhouse
        Posted November 6, 2017 at 9:14 pm | Permalink

        Any rifle with a big magazine would work.

    • wetherjeff
      Posted November 7, 2017 at 6:56 am | Permalink

      Absolutely, if I was a business owner in the US I’d give her a job immediately. Maybe in PR as ‘Head of Government Relations’, or maybe ‘Principal Negotiator – Government Contracts’, she obviously doesn’t take any crap. Good for her!

  8. Posted November 6, 2017 at 1:42 pm | Permalink

    This is why I support anonymity on the internet.

    • BobTerrace
      Posted November 6, 2017 at 1:48 pm | Permalink

      She should at least have had her Facebook account closed to public access so her employer and people other than friends could even see it. I would guess most people leave it wide open.

      I would never work for any company that required me to open my media access to the company.

      • GBJames
        Posted November 6, 2017 at 2:14 pm | Permalink

        It depends on how one uses Facebook. In my case, I deliberately leave almost everything public because the main reason I’m there is to try (in my small way) to influence public opinion. But I have the luxury of not working for a company at which expressing one’s opinion outside of the workplace is a problem.

      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted November 6, 2017 at 3:12 pm | Permalink

        I think even then, if you say something bad about a company or do something that harms them, you can get into trouble because you’ve extended work onto your social platform.

        Personally, I think it’s a pretty sad state of affairs that and entity like a corporation or the President of the United States can’t take getting the finger. Once Pierre Trudeau told someone to “fuck off” in the House of Commons then laughed at how sensitive everyone was and said that he said “fuddle duddle”; “fuddle duddle” was the funniest thing many Canadians ever heard but even in the 70s when everyone was clutching their pearls, he pointed out how whiny every was bing. He also gave the finger to protestors in BC once. Sure, maybe a PM should be a bit more well behaved but maybe we should all just not freak out over the gesture of finger, especially at a woman driving a bicycle along a road. What’s next, executing her for treason?

        • Diana MacPherson
          Posted November 6, 2017 at 3:13 pm | Permalink

          Enjoy the typos (good grief I’m even on a keyboard this time).

        • Randall Schenck
          Posted November 6, 2017 at 3:36 pm | Permalink

          Here is my story, although not real proud of it. Many years ago I was driving a company car (had who we were on the license plate) and I had my boss in the car. We were going across the bay bridge and traffic was heavy. Suddenly I hear this car honking and look in the rear view mirror and this woman is waving hands and apparently upset. I turned around as best you can in a car while driving and flipped her off. Later that day, back at work, into our offices comes these company security guys to talk to us. Apparently the woman I had flipped off also worked for the company at another location and she got on the phone and turned me in. Said I cut in front of her, causing her to hit the brakes and then I gave her the bird. I had to lie more or less and say no such thing happened and she was wrong and of course, my boss backed me up.

          • Diana MacPherson
            Posted November 6, 2017 at 3:47 pm | Permalink

            How terrible but there have been many times that I have noticed people cut me off or do something stupid and then pull into the same work parking lot as me.

            Once, when it happened, I knew the person so I emailed them later and told them “nice driving”. They were embarrassed.

            But I wouldn’t have tried to get them fired. Embarrass them yes, fire, no. Good grief, we have conflicts at work and I don’t expect to fire people or be fired or get someone fired…we’re all human (unless of course someone smacks me one).

            • Randall Schenck
              Posted November 6, 2017 at 3:59 pm | Permalink

              Yes, to get someone fired or even attempt to would be nuts. I do not think my thing would have gotten me fired but could have had some disciplinary issue. It was stupid to be giving someone the figure, yes, but more stupid when you are in a company car. It also was a bad luck day for me – the idea that of thousands of cars on the bay bridge at that time I have to do it to a person who also works for the same company.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted November 6, 2017 at 3:27 pm | Permalink

      Lucky thing for the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave, the signatories of the Declaration of Independence didn’t feel that way.

    • Diane G.
      Posted November 7, 2017 at 2:30 am | Permalink

      You mean Speaker To Animals isn’t your real name? I’m so disappointed!

      • Wotan Nichols
        Posted November 7, 2017 at 6:05 am | Permalink

        If I am not mistaken, it is the name of a large tigerish alien in some of Larry Niven’s sci-fi novels.

        • darrelle
          Posted November 7, 2017 at 8:19 am | Permalink

          Yes. A Kzin. Who later earned a name. Speaker To Animals was the Kzin’s designation based on its occupation. Its occupation was ambassador to Earth. The Kzin were a bit haughty.

          • Diane G.
            Posted November 8, 2017 at 1:55 am | Permalink

            Not that you’re implying anything, of course…

            😀

            • darrelle
              Posted November 8, 2017 at 7:35 am | Permalink

              Oh shoot. 🙂 I really wasn’t trying to imply anything about our Speaker To Animals here! But now you’ve got me curious about how he came to choose that moniker.

        • Diane G.
          Posted November 8, 2017 at 1:54 am | Permalink

          Hey, thanks for that! I’d been wondering… 😀

  9. Jake Sevins
    Posted November 6, 2017 at 1:45 pm | Permalink

    Whether you like Trump or not, if you work for a gov contractor, expect to face consequences for flipping off the president.

    She’ll probably get a bunch of better job offers now, due to her new-found notoriety.

    • yazikus
      Posted November 6, 2017 at 8:16 pm | Permalink

      Are you suggesting that government contracts in the US are awarded based on the level of deference afforded to the current president? I’m quite sure that is not how it is supposed to work.

  10. Posted November 6, 2017 at 1:47 pm | Permalink

    As a European I’m just amazed that a “WEIRD” country would have “at will” employment laws.

    But then seeing Kinder chocolate eggs as more dangerous than assault rifles is also somewhat idiosyncratic.

    • rasmo carenna
      Posted November 6, 2017 at 1:52 pm | Permalink

      +1

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted November 6, 2017 at 3:15 pm | Permalink

      I know it’s so weird to me too – the “at will” not the Kinder eggs as I’ve gotten used to that after Canadians kept having them confiscated at US border crossings.

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted November 6, 2017 at 3:15 pm | Permalink

      I know it’s so weird to me too – the “at will” not the Kinder eggs as I’ve gotten used to that after Canadians kept having them confiscated at US border crossings.

    • drdrish
      Posted November 6, 2017 at 3:21 pm | Permalink

      What’s wrong with “at will” employment? Keeping deadweight and those who refuse to comply with company policy on the payroll leads to inefficiency and profit-loss.

      • Posted November 6, 2017 at 3:38 pm | Permalink

        There’s quite a lot of middle ground between “at will” firing and not being able to fire someone at all.

      • David Duncan
        Posted November 7, 2017 at 5:59 am | Permalink

        IBM used to keep deadwood on their payroll. They’d offer redundancies to all and sundry, hoping the deadwood would take them. Mostly they didn’t, the capable staff would take them and immediately get a job somewhere else. Eventually IBM could no longer afford this and started firing deadwood without the rich payouts.

      • wetherjeff
        Posted November 7, 2017 at 7:11 am | Permalink

        Really? Are you actually serious? What’s wrong is that a business owner or manager can exert control over, and fire an employee, for any reason no matter how arbitrary. To expose people to the threat of losing their livelihood, home, healthcare, car, etc. for no good reason is inhuman. More so if the manager is financially secure and the employee is not.
        There are lots of creeps, jerks and shitty people in positions of authority. Would you be happy for your daughter, sister or mother to give years to a company and then be fired because they didn’t want to have sex with the pervert who happens to be the new boss? What if the boss is gay? Is it OK for him to fire your son, who has worked there for years, because your son doesn’t want to screw him? What if your son’s wife is being treated for cancer under the company health program and will lose treatment if he gets fired? Should a Harvey Weinstein character be able to fire employees if they won’t indulge his desires? In any civilised society the answer is no.
        I live and work in Europe, and occasionally I have been frustrated when I’ve wanted to fire an under-performing employee and been unable to do so. But you know what, we found ways to fix matters, and now that I’m a bit older and wiser I’m glad we found another way. Being able to fire someone ‘at will’ has very little to do with business and more to do with personal expediency for the manager/owner. And the situation will be difficult to change because of the blind adherence to free market ideology of so many lawmakers in the US.
        Your example of employees being dead weight or not complying with company policy doesn’t support the argument. These situations are routinely dealt with where I work and at other UK companies I have worked for. Employment law provides for such situations. The process just takes a bit more effort by the employer but it also gives the chance for the employee to pull their socks up. In addition to being the decent thing to do it makes a lot of commercial sense – hiring new people is expensive and risky.
        It’s no wonder the murder and violent crime rates are so much higher in the US. I’ve said it before on this site: US guns laws are absolutely nuts, as is the power of the NRA to influence policy. But that alone doesn’t explain the huge number of firearm homicides (including suicides) in America. It’s laws like this and countless others, not least lack of healthcare provision, that make so many Americans insecure, subjugated, stressed, angry, desperate, physically and mentally unwell and without treatment or maybe bankrupt because your wife got leukemia. Mix that lot with easily available firearms and you’re asking for trouble.

        • Posted November 7, 2017 at 8:45 am | Permalink

          +1

          • Michael Fisher
            Posted November 7, 2017 at 8:48 am | Permalink

            +1 + +1

        • drdrish
          Posted November 7, 2017 at 2:02 pm | Permalink

          It’s obvious you do not understand “at will” employment as it is practiced in the United States. Supervisors in large companies such as Akima do not have the authority to arbitrarily fire an employee. Such companies have written rules in place pertaining to the firing of employees, as well as an appeals process for terminated employees. Additionally, department heads understand that terminating an employee reflects badly on them (i.e., department heads) because it indicates he/she is a poor judge of character for hiring the employee in the first place. This is the reason there is a process for dealing with undesirable employees, which usually consists of a verbal warning, a written warning (which the employee must sign), counseling, etc. before he/she is fired. The only time an employee can be fired without prior warnings and counseling is when he/she blatantly violates company policy (as did Briskman) or commits a criminal act.

          Your referencing Harvey Weinstein proves you don’t understand “at will” employment. In a company such as Akima, Weinstein wouldn’t have lasted a month. Weinstein was a film producer who dealt with women who will do anything to get a part and he took advantage of the situation. Women who apply for jobs with companies such as Akima depend on their skills — not the “casting couch” — to get ahead.

          • wetherjeff
            Posted November 7, 2017 at 3:57 pm | Permalink

            I beg to differ with you there. I have considerable experience of living and working in the US – I worked for a large American Corporation(a household name)for a number of years. I admit I love the US and have many American friends but the politics both fascinates and exasperates me. I’m certainly glad I don’t work there any more in the current political climate.

            Anyway from that experience I have direct knowledge how these laws worked for coworkers in certain states. The experienced, skilled and professional employees were given the warnings, reviews, counselling etc. after a misdeed or poor performance. The more junior people were just dropped like a bad smell. The employees that most needed protection had none at all.

            My mentioning of Weinstein proves nothing of what you claim. I agree with you – he probably wouldn’t have lasted two minutes at a large corporate, but that’s not my point. I was using him as an example of the egregious people that can hold power in some organisations. And with no legal protection for workers they can fire who they like when they like for any reason. To my mind that is a shitty state of affairs.

            The last bit is unbelievable – “Weinstein was a film producer who dealt with women who will do anything to get a part and he took advantage of the situation”. I don’t know where to start with that, but:
            1)That’s not what I have read in the reports by many of the women that he forced himself on
            2)Many had to lock themselves in the bathroom or free themselves from underneath his bloated body and run for the door. Many were also VERY young and naive
            3)Have you read about the admin assistant / PA in his London office who he paid off to keep quiet about his forcing himself on her?You reckon she went in to the PA profession to get fucked by fat old men
            4)Are you saying that ALL female actors go into the profession knowing they will have to suck an old guy’s penis to get a part?
            5)Your remark suggests that this is OK? Female actors should accept the ‘casting couch’?

            • drdrish
              Posted November 7, 2017 at 6:28 pm | Permalink

              “The more junior people were just dropped like a bad smell.”

              Most large corporations — and many small companies and sole proprietors — have a 90-day probationary period in which a newly-hired employ may be terminated without cause and anyone who has lived and worked in the US knows this.

              No, the “last bit” isn’t “unbelievable,” your unfounded assumptions are unbelievable. Actresses have been granting favors to dirty old men for parts in stage plays and films as long as there have been stage plays (featuring women) and movies. This is the reason predators such as Weinstein are drawn to the theater and movie industry. Though I did not, nor did I imply, that what Weinstein did was in any way excusable, anyone who believes all the allegations women (or men) make in cases of alleged sexual harassment is extremely naïve.

            • drdrish
              Posted November 7, 2017 at 6:47 pm | Permalink

              “The employees that most needed protection had none at all.”

              Employees who do their jobs and abide by the rules do not need “protection.” Employee-turnover costs money and no company — no matter how large or small — wants to lose money. Sadly, however, some new hires just don’t work out, either because they cannot do the job, constant tardiness, excessive absences, or whatever. In such situations, employers are forced to replace the employee and hire and train someone else.

            • Diane G.
              Posted November 8, 2017 at 2:49 am | Permalink

              Thank you for saving me the trouble of calling out drdrish for his despicable remarkds; and doing a far better job than I’d have been capable of.

    • Craw
      Posted November 6, 2017 at 7:47 pm | Permalink

      Do you think you should be able to quit a company that endorsed the local nazi party? Because that’s at will too.

  11. Posted November 6, 2017 at 1:52 pm | Permalink

    You are correct about employment-at-will states. You can be fired for any reason, except when the reason violates a discrimination statute, such as if it involves a handicapping condition, sex disparity, religious practice that can be accommodated, because you were called up for military duty, etc. I am a retired attorney and don’t keep up any longer with the details of employment law, but this is my understanding of the current standards.

    • clarkia
      Posted November 6, 2017 at 3:30 pm | Permalink

      and atheism, not being a religion, is not covered under discrimination statute, right?

      • Paul S
        Posted November 6, 2017 at 3:45 pm | Permalink

        I think asking about a persons religious views can be a violation of the EEOC. Then again, employers do not have to abide by the EEOC in certain instances.

        • clarkia
          Posted November 6, 2017 at 4:00 pm | Permalink

          if they ask about holding non-religious views that would not be covered, it seems.

      • JohnE
        Posted November 6, 2017 at 5:12 pm | Permalink

        The U.S. courts have generally held that constitutional and statutory protections applicable to “religion” cover both religious beliefs and the absence of such beliefs. See, e.g., https://www.dol.gov/oasam/programs/crc/2011-Religious-Discrimination-and-Accommodation.htm

        • Craw
          Posted November 6, 2017 at 7:53 pm | Permalink

          Clarkia is making a sardonic point. The atheists here (and I am one) hotly deny atheism is a religion — until, in cases like that, it is. This is one reason why I prefer to talk about freedom of thought, or conscience.

  12. Posted November 6, 2017 at 2:04 pm | Permalink

    The First Amendment’s constitutional right of free speech, which is applicable to state and local governments under the incorporation doctrine, only prevents government restrictions on speech, not restrictions imposed by private individuals or businesses unless they are acting on behalf of the government. However, laws may restrict the ability of private businesses and individuals from restricting the speech of others, such as employment laws that restrict employers’ ability to prevent employees from disclosing their salary with coworkers or attempting to organize a labor union.

    • Posted November 6, 2017 at 2:22 pm | Permalink

      The First Amendment’s constitutional right of free speech, which is applicable to state and local governments under the incorporation doctrine, only prevents government restrictions on speech, not restrictions imposed by private individuals or businesses unless they are acting on behalf of the government

      The company’s major customer is the government. If they fired her to protect contracts with the government how does this differ from being fired by the government?

      • drdrish
        Posted November 6, 2017 at 3:30 pm | Permalink

        Because the company is NOT “the government.” Additionally, she wasn’t fired for what she did — which was deplorable — she was fired for wantonly violating company policy by posting the image of herself making an obscene gesture as her profile photo on Facebook and Twitter. If she had bothered to read the employee handbook, she would have known better. She has no one but herself to blame.

      • Harrison
        Posted November 6, 2017 at 6:17 pm | Permalink

        Indeed. It would clearly be a free speech issue if the government came down on a contractor because they or an employee engaged in political speech with which the government disagreed.

        Or to put it another way, the company has implied that they believe the government may be despotic. Oops.

      • Craw
        Posted November 6, 2017 at 7:43 pm | Permalink

        The difference is there is no evidence the government said a thing.

  13. Gabrielle
    Posted November 6, 2017 at 2:08 pm | Permalink

    No, it was not the ethical thing to do. Punishing an employee for expressing their political opinion when off the job is not ethical.

    However, businesses do not exist to practice ethics. They exist to make money, period, no matter how much they may say they care about their communities, schools, favorite charities, etc.

    In this case, the company may have been concerned, however misguided, that this employee’s actions would cause them to lose out on contracts with the government. They may have been concerned that their company would be viewed as too liberal, too anti-Trump. It is also likely, based on my employment as a government contractor in the Washington area, that this company is mainly run by persons on the more conservative side of the political aisle, making them likely to view her action negatively.

    As for employment-at-will: my employer, who is basically pretty decent, has also reiterated more than once that they can fire us at anytime for any reason, lest we forget this important fact.

    • Gordon
      Posted November 6, 2017 at 2:13 pm | Permalink

      That’s a decent employer? Does it sack someone once in a while just to make the point?

      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted November 6, 2017 at 3:22 pm | Permalink

        I can’t imagine employees at a company would be able to innovate if they are always fearful of being fired. Maybe if you don’t deliver a project on time, or you overspend, or you do miss a requirement, they should decimate your team, just like the Romans did (without the actual killing though) just to make the point that you better not fall out of some arbitrary line.

        • DiscoveredJoys
          Posted November 6, 2017 at 3:46 pm | Permalink

          On the other hand in France employment is heavily protected to the point that it is almost impossible to fire anyone. As a consequence employers are very slow to recruit new staff.

          Perhaps there is an optimum balance to be struck?

        • Gabrielle
          Posted November 6, 2017 at 8:06 pm | Permalink

          No, they don’t just fire people here and there to reinforce the company policy. The only person that I’ve known to be fired was for cause (poor performance), and this was after they were put on probation.
          And the company is decent – we have great medical benefits and they contribute 10% of our salary to our 401K retirement plan. Nowadays, that’s really good.
          I’m not certain why they bring up the at-will policy every once in a while. It may be because we have a lot of new employees every year, and the company wants to make certain everyone is aware of the policy.

        • Craw
          Posted November 6, 2017 at 8:14 pm | Permalink

          I work as a contractor in a Fortune 10 company. The permanent employees have something akin to tenure due to the state laws, the contractors are at will. There are 3 of us in key positions in our department, who do most of the work. When I am off for a few days my section just grinds to a halt and waits until I return. (Other departments are not nearly this bad I must admit.)

  14. Harrison
    Posted November 6, 2017 at 2:09 pm | Permalink

    Maybe this will get some liberals to think a bit harder before they thoughtlessly parrot the libertarian argument that government doing something (restricting free speech) is bad, but powerful private interests doing the same thing is not bad because only government can be bad.

    • Kevin
      Posted November 6, 2017 at 2:33 pm | Permalink

      You used that word “libertarian”. That’s a real can of worms!

    • Posted November 7, 2017 at 4:05 pm | Permalink

      I’m an *original* sense libertarian (i.e., what it often means in Europe) to some degree, and it is precisely for reasons like this. Corporations have too much power.

  15. Posted November 6, 2017 at 2:16 pm | Permalink

    I would call that a petition for redress of grievances.

  16. Colleen Milloy
    Posted November 6, 2017 at 2:27 pm | Permalink

    Hi Jerry. Sorry, nothing to do with Ms. Briskman (although I do think her employer acted unethically).

    I have a question for you – I don’t know who else to ask. One of my favorite shows is the British reality program Supervet, which follows the trials and tribulations of the amazing veterinarian orthopedic surgeon Dr. Noel Fitzpatrick. His patient is a cat that has suffered a catastrophic injury to his left elbow. While awaiting surgery, the cat’s left eye loses function, or at least the retina does. Noel makes the comment that he wonders what evolutionary function it serves to have a cat’s eye nerves running through the elbow joint. He never gives an answer and it has been bugging me ever since.

    I know you love cats and are an evolutionary biology expert. Can you shed some light?

    Luckily for the cat in question, Noel repaired the elbow without any nerve damage and the cat’s eye returned to normal.

    Thanks so much! Enjoy your columns, your wildlife posts and your Twitter feed.

    Best,
    Colleen

    • Michael Fisher
      Posted November 6, 2017 at 9:32 pm | Permalink

      Hi Colleen

      QUOTE: “…a cat that has suffered a catastrophic injury to his left elbow […] the cat’s left eye loses function […] what evolutionary function […] to have a cat’s eye nerves running through the elbow joint…”

      ANSWER: The central nervous system [CNS] of animals isn’t engineered that well in gross detail e.g. the famous example of the giraffe laryngeal nerve: https://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Laryngeal_nerve

      However I’m confident the cat’s optic nerve goes nowhere near her elbow. BUT what does happen in cats & dogs is a ‘disturbance’ in one part of the CNS can cause problems elsewhere – such as the optic nerve [which technically is also part of the CNS].

      Your TV kitty probably had **optic neuritis** in which one [or both] of the cat’s optic nerves are swollen, resulting in impaired visual function. Optic neuritis may be a primary disease or a **secondary disease**, meaning it occurs due to the presence of another disease in the body, such as a central nervous system (CNS) dysfunction. Thus an infection of the nerve of the elbow [or a trapped elbow nerve I suppose] can result in a temporary loss of sight to the eye on the same side.

      Evolution is the supreme ‘bodger’

    • Michael Fisher
      Posted November 6, 2017 at 9:44 pm | Permalink

      Colleen

      Related examples in Hooomans:

      Infection of the jaw or a tooth can lead to temporary blindness in one eye by the same mechanism as the TV kitty

      One symptom of that bastard disease MS is temporary blindness – a dear friend went blind for an afternoon. She panicked somewhat – she was unaware until then that she was in the MS camp.

    • Pete T
      Posted November 7, 2017 at 8:53 am | Permalink

      Hi Colleen,
      Noel was joking. He was also making a point that one should not fall for the post hoc ergo proptor hoc fallacy in veterinary medicine. Apologies on behalf of the Anglo-Irish for the deadpan humour that never made it successfully across the Atlantic. I can definitively clarify for you that the visual pathways of the the feline nervous system go nowhere near the elbow. The two problems may have had a common traumatic cause or the eye could have an unrelated pathology but there is no causal link.
      Regards,
      Pete MRCVS

  17. darrelle
    Posted November 6, 2017 at 2:27 pm | Permalink

    I’m surprised Trump didn’t order the SS to take the woman out right there. Or arrest her and ship her out to Gitmo.

    • BobTerrace
      Posted November 6, 2017 at 2:34 pm | Permalink

      Don’t be silly. Trump doesn’t have an SS. It is the Brown Shirts he would order to do it.

      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted November 6, 2017 at 3:28 pm | Permalink

        I’ll just leave a href=”https://pics.me.me/the-less-immigrants-we-let-in-the-better-shhh-dont-18515405.png”>this here

      • XCellKen
        Posted November 6, 2017 at 8:28 pm | Permalink

        I think SS = Secret Service ???

        • darrelle
          Posted November 7, 2017 at 8:29 am | Permalink

          Yes.

    • Craw
      Posted November 6, 2017 at 7:39 pm | Permalink

      I understand you are surprised. But Trump has nothing to do with this, right? But that doesn’t matter because you feel like he would. This is how confirmation bias works.

      On thread after thread I read paeans to judging people by the content of their character, yet see people being judged by the contents of someone else’s.

      • darrelle
        Posted November 7, 2017 at 7:53 am | Permalink

        Actually, you clearly don’t understand. Your sarcasm and humor detectors are surely broken. I can understand you may not approve of such sarcasm, but I’m really not that worried about it. It does sort of surprise me that anyone here, even you, would take my comment so literally.

      • Diane G.
        Posted November 8, 2017 at 3:24 am | Permalink

        “But Trump has nothing to do with this, right?”

        Oh, no. I can’t imagine why anyone would dream of flipping the bird at him. And talk about character–he has the best character!

    • Posted November 7, 2017 at 11:36 pm | Permalink

      I’m surprised Trump didn’t order the SS to take the woman out right there.

      Yes, Trump has the best SS, nobody has SS as great as his. MAGA

  18. Jeff Rankin
    Posted November 6, 2017 at 2:41 pm | Permalink

    Dumb all the way around. Dumb of her to flip off the motorcade. Dumb of her employer to fire her.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted November 6, 2017 at 3:15 pm | Permalink

      Dumb to flip-off a motorcade?

      Expressing disapproval by shooting the bird at some blowhard politician’s passing motorcade strikes me as symbolic speech at its most succinct and eloquent (particularly given the difficulty of mooning someone while pedaling a bike).

      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted November 6, 2017 at 3:32 pm | Permalink

        Or throwing feces while riding a bike. It’s what separates us from the other primates.

      • Jeff Rankin
        Posted November 6, 2017 at 3:42 pm | Permalink

        Yes I agree with that.

        However, there are a lot of people in that motorcade whose job it is to put their lives on the line for the president – I’m not about to flip them off, even if the real target of the act is plain.

        So, yes, dumb in its lack of discrimination.

      • Diane G.
        Posted November 7, 2017 at 2:51 am | Permalink

        Lol!

  19. Gregory Kusnick
    Posted November 6, 2017 at 2:44 pm | Permalink

    Implicit in this whole story is the idea that Trump is a vindictive egomaniac who would cancel contracts over a trivial insult. If the Akima CEO were to say that out loud, that would be a major incident. But if he simply acts as if he believes it (by firing Briskman), that’s somehow OK, and even virtuous according to some commenters.

    It’s a weird sort of doublethink in which Briskman is made the fall guy for honestly expressing what everyone else, including her employer, already believes.

    • darrelle
      Posted November 6, 2017 at 3:16 pm | Permalink

      Yes, well said.

    • Gabrielle
      Posted November 6, 2017 at 8:21 pm | Permalink

      We know what Briskman thinks of the president, but we don’t know what her employer thinks. Looking over the Akima website, it looks like they are a company of engineers and IT specialists. As I’ve said up thread, it’s more likely than not that the company management is on the conservative side. And whatever their politics, they are going to want to feed at the Dept. of Defense contract trough, and they won’t want anything to affect that.

      • Gregory Kusnick
        Posted November 6, 2017 at 8:47 pm | Permalink

        Why should they think this incident would affect their contracts, unless they have some opinion about Trump’s inclination to retaliate?

  20. Ken Kukec
    Posted November 6, 2017 at 3:02 pm | Permalink

    Briskman has no constitutional remedy against her employer, of course, because it is a private company. But Akima LLC’s position on this seems like arrant horseshit to me since, if a governmental entity would take action action against it on a government contract because of the off-duty political speech of one of its employees, that would have First Amendment implications.

    What kind of crappy company doesn’t respect its employees’ right-of-conscience to engage in political speech on their own damn time? To fire someone for expressing disapprobation of the nation’s leader strikes me inherently and uniquely un-American — shades of that other inherently un-American institution, the old House Un-American Activities Committee, with its encouragement of private companies to blacklist employees holding disesteemed political views.

    • Historian
      Posted November 6, 2017 at 3:36 pm | Permalink

      “What kind of crappy company doesn’t respect its employees’ right-of-conscience to engage in political speech on their own damn time?”

      I agree in principle with you, but in the real world the financial health of the business and emotion come into play. Suppose employees of a business began posting pictures of themselves standing in front of a Nazi flag while wearing a swastika armband and a brown shirt? This is certainly political speech, but a business knowing such people will undoubtedly lose customers for it may feel it has no choice but to discharge these people.

      As I recall, a few months ago there was a similar discussion on this issue with no real resolution. Now as well, this is a problem with no satisfactory answer.

      • Craw
        Posted November 6, 2017 at 4:27 pm | Permalink

        Yes. I think in this case the employer was precipitate and a bit foolish. But I can imagine similar situations where I’d think otherwise.

        There might also be more we don’t know. Even with at will employment there can be reasons to wait for a pretext to fire someone.

      • Posted November 7, 2017 at 11:48 pm | Permalink

        The employer is making the implicit claim that it will lose business because of the employees actions.

        The burden of proof for that claim lies with them, until it is provided their primary reason for dismissal is based on conjecture.

        In New Zealand the dismissal would likely be deemed unjustified.

    • DiscoveredJoys
      Posted November 6, 2017 at 3:50 pm | Permalink

      A bit of whataboutery… if someone had given the bird to an Obama motorcade and their employer sacked them becaue of a potential risk to their government business would the commenters’ views be the same?

      • busterggi
        Posted November 6, 2017 at 4:00 pm | Permalink

        mine would.

        • Diana MacPherson
          Posted November 6, 2017 at 4:01 pm | Permalink

          Mine too.

          • Craw
            Posted November 6, 2017 at 4:29 pm | Permalink

            You’d have posted Obama is a Nazi jokes? Good to know.

            • Diana MacPherson
              Posted November 6, 2017 at 5:29 pm | Permalink

              Yes I would have because it’s naziesque behaviour. Glad it’s good for you to know.

              • Craw
                Posted November 6, 2017 at 7:34 pm | Permalink

                A woman flipping the bird to Trump is naziesque behavior by Trump? That’s what you just said.

              • Diana MacPherson
                Posted November 6, 2017 at 7:59 pm | Permalink

                Oh for FFS go troll someone else for a while.

              • Craw
                Posted November 7, 2017 at 4:13 am | Permalink

                Uncivil. Unsurprising.

              • Diana MacPherson
                Posted November 7, 2017 at 5:49 am | Permalink

                And here, judging from your responses, I thought you were the sort who liked and even appreciated responses a little on the uncivilized side. I’ll try to be gentler with you next time.

              • darrelle
                Posted November 7, 2017 at 8:39 am | Permalink

                Craw, I’m genuinely curious. You really think you are civil? In my experience of you here at WEIT you are often not particularly civil. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that is necessarily a problem as it is normal behavior to be uncivil at times. But if you believe you are especially civil you might want to take a 2nd look at your comments or your definition of civil.

                You are also often unusually literal in your interpretation of other comments. It’s hard to tell if that is honest misunderstanding or simply a rhetorical tactic to allow you to “score points” against your “opponent.”

              • Diana MacPherson
                Posted November 7, 2017 at 12:31 pm | Permalink

                Thanks darelle; I’m glad it’s not just me who notices this.

      • Gregory Kusnick
        Posted November 6, 2017 at 4:24 pm | Permalink

        I’d hope that if one if Obama’s subordinates threatened to pull contracts unless the woman were sacked, that subordinate would be the one to get the sack, or at least a reprimand, and the woman’s employer would get a phone call from the White House supporting her free-speech rights.

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted November 6, 2017 at 4:45 pm | Permalink

        Absolutely. And I’m confident Obama would’ve laughed it off himself (probably with a quip such as “she’s trying to say I’m #1”).

        Obama had a well-documented sense of humor; Trump doesn’t. Has anyone ever heard the guy laugh (let alone ever laugh self-deprecatingly at himself)? He’s incapable of it.

        Trump finds humor only in ridiculing the weak. The only thing that might make the humorless bastard laugh out loud would be the sight of a paraplegic in a voting booth struggling unsuccessfully to pull the lever for a Democrat.

  21. Max Blancke
    Posted November 6, 2017 at 6:27 pm | Permalink

    When you have a career working for a government contractor, you know that there are rules about conduct at work and at home. It is just part of the deal, and not a secret.
    Sometimes, you might feel strongly about an issue, but you have to ask yourself if a public display of that sentiment would affect your employment or security clearance.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted November 6, 2017 at 7:31 pm | Permalink

      Yes, because nothing says the American spirit like punishing a citizen with the loss of employment for the affront of lèse-majesté.

      Maybe the Trump administration can arrange to give her some time in the stocks, too. How dare she insult her betters!

  22. eric
    Posted November 6, 2017 at 8:02 pm | Permalink

    Even if it was legal to fire Briskman for her actions, was it the ethical thing to do?”

    I think it’s ethically neutral, with there being good arguments both pro and con. However I would’ve preferred to see the company give her a warning.

    I think with any other administration, this response would’ve been unethical overkill. Most rational presidents aren’t going to bother themselves worrying about some contractor’s employee’s political preference, and it would’ve been silly to fire her over expressing it. But sadly, with Trump’s administration I have no problem at all believing such a gesture could have prompted retaliatory loss of contracts.

    So while this incident may say something somewhat negative about Akima, I think it says a lot more negative about the Trump administration.

  23. Posted November 6, 2017 at 9:40 pm | Permalink

    Such a pathetic low class for a woman to give such a obscene hand gesture to a country’s leader. It is rather embarrassing for any decent citizen let alone for an employer to deal with this gross act, she was rightly terminated. Lucky for her as in other regions, she would have been executed.

    • Gregory Kusnick
      Posted November 6, 2017 at 9:47 pm | Permalink

      I’m not at all embarrassed to live in a country where such expression is tolerated; on the contrary, I think it’s something to be proud of. How else can free minds be free?

      • Posted November 6, 2017 at 9:51 pm | Permalink

        By being responsible for their actions, of course she can do obscene acts, but there needs to be repercussions, her employer has the freedom to terminate her.

        • Gregory Kusnick
          Posted November 6, 2017 at 10:24 pm | Permalink

          The president himself has admitted to acts far more obscene than this. What repercussions do you think would be appropriate for him?

    • Michael Fisher
      Posted November 6, 2017 at 10:01 pm | Permalink

      Are you expressing your real views friedmind?

      Your new blog resembles Russian troll material – stolen instagram pics of undressed women & impersonal shitposts. Or you are a basement dweller, neck beard MGTOW type of critter?

      Which is it old son?

      • Posted November 6, 2017 at 10:15 pm | Permalink

        Sure got me, Command from Russia is to infiltrate sites, to point out a mangina like u.

        • Michael Fisher
          Posted November 6, 2017 at 10:26 pm | Permalink

          Mangina? So it’s the second option – you’re of the MGTOW, wimmin-hatin’ persuasion. Hilarious.

          On your blog, try using your own pics & experiment with humour, empathy & the personal touch. Avoid overuse of “I” & the tendency to outward narcissism. You know – just fake being someone capable of understanding & valuing other peeps. Use Donald as a model if you like. 🙂

    • Michael Fisher
      Posted November 6, 2017 at 10:28 pm | Permalink

      Trump: I moved on her, actually. You know, she was down on Palm Beach. I moved on her, and I failed. I’ll admit it.

      Unknown: Whoa.

      Trump: I did try and fuck her. She was married.

      Unknown: That’s huge news.

      Trump: No, no, Nancy. No, this was [unintelligible] — and I moved on her very heavily. In fact, I took her out furniture shopping.

      She wanted to get some furniture. I said, “I’ll show you where they have some nice furniture.” I took her out furniture —

      I moved on her like a bitch. But I couldn’t get there. And she was married. Then all of a sudden I see her, she’s now got the big phony tits and everything. She’s totally changed her look.

      Billy Bush: Sheesh, your girl’s hot as shit. In the purple.

      Trump: Whoa! Whoa!

      Bush: Yes! The Donald has scored. Whoa, my man!

      [Crosstalk]

      Trump: Look at you, you are a pussy.

      [Crosstalk]

      Trump: All right, you and I will walk out.

      [Silence]

      Trump: Maybe it’s a different one.

      Bush: It better not be the publicist. No, it’s, it’s her, it’s —

      Trump: Yeah, that’s her. With the gold. I better use some Tic Tacs just in case I start kissing her. You know, I’m automatically attracted to beautiful — I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything.

      Bush: Whatever you want.

      Trump: Grab ’em by the pussy. You can do anything.

      Bush: Uh, yeah, those legs, all I can see is the legs.

      Trump: Oh, it looks good.

      Bush: Come on shorty.

      Trump: Ooh, nice legs, huh?

      Bush: Oof, get out of the way, honey. Oh, that’s good legs. Go ahead.

      Trump: It’s always good if you don’t fall out of the bus. Like Ford, Gerald Ford, remember?

      Bush: Down below, pull the handle.

      Trump: Hello, how are you? Hi!

  24. Posted November 7, 2017 at 4:09 am | Permalink

    “employers can fire people anytime and for any reason” – So much for liberty!

  25. Kevin
    Posted November 7, 2017 at 5:32 am | Permalink

    She should have used the Mountza. The Greeks use it a lot. It expresses disdain but is not considered obscene.
    One or two handed (the latter inadvisable on a bike), its supposed to signify having your face rubbed in cinders, or possibly the lightning bolt from the hand of Zeus.

    The gesture for every occasion. Even your Grandmother can master it in minutes. You can fire it backward over your shoulder at the car behind you. In a bar when your team is losing. En masse to express peevishness against the Government when they are selling your economy down the tube.

    Ward off the evil eye and place curses on people you take passing dislike to.

  26. David Duncan
    Posted November 7, 2017 at 6:02 am | Permalink

    What if a Republican flipped the bird to a passing Obama motorcade? That would be different, wouldn’t it?

    This woman’s actions are stupid after stupid after stupid.

    • GBJames
      Posted November 7, 2017 at 7:20 am | Permalink

      “What if a Republican…”

      Republicans being disrespectful to Obama? I’m sure nothing like that ever happened.

      • Posted November 7, 2017 at 7:24 am | Permalink

        The point David is making is that we would not condone it if a Republican did it to Obama, so why the double standard?

        • GBJames
          Posted November 7, 2017 at 7:30 am | Permalink

          What do you mean “condone”?

          We’re talking about firing someone for expressing contempt for the president. Can you find examples where we (by some definition of “we”) advocate for firing Republicans who showed disrespect for President Obama?

          Seems to me that the double standard is among those who spent eight years shouting “you lie” at Obama who now are fainting over someone flipping the bird at a motorcade.

          • Diana MacPherson
            Posted November 7, 2017 at 12:27 pm | Permalink

            +1

          • Diane G.
            Posted November 8, 2017 at 1:47 am | Permalink

            Well said!

        • darrelle
          Posted November 7, 2017 at 8:53 am | Permalink

          Yeah, his point was obvious. Also obviously wrong. If this had happened to Obama’s motorcade this wouldn’t have played out like this at all. And if we were talking about it at all it wouldn’t be about how the company the flipper worked for should fire her before Obama gets mad and orders the government to do no more business with them.

          • David Duncan
            Posted November 7, 2017 at 11:01 am | Permalink

            “If this had happened to Obama’s motorcade this wouldn’t have played out like this at all.”

            Why not?

            • darrelle
              Posted November 7, 2017 at 11:02 am | Permalink

              Why would it?

            • Gregory Kusnick
              Posted November 7, 2017 at 12:25 pm | Permalink

              Because Obama’s motorcade actually did get flipped off by angry white guys any number of times, and as far as I know, nobody ever got fired for it.

  27. Posted November 7, 2017 at 7:23 am | Permalink

    “As they went by, Briskman instinctively did what many of us would do: she flipped the bird to the motorcade.”

    I despise Trump but I would not flip him the bird. One of the main reasons that I dislike him is his extreme vulgarity and debasement of his high office, and therefore a crude gesture such as flipping the bird appears to me to be stooping down to his level.

    • Diane G.
      Posted November 8, 2017 at 3:03 am | Permalink

      I thought of that, too, but I’d probably have to sit on my hands…

  28. BJ
    Posted November 7, 2017 at 10:14 am | Permalink

    Regarding the ethics of the issue, I will post the analogy I made above in response to another comment, and then expand upon my point:

    If you owned a company that made in-store displays for Benadryl, and one of your employees posted on their Facebook page that Benadryl is a piece of shit, hateful product that nobody should respect, would you continue employing her? I wouldn’t.

    I understand why she was fired and it has nothing to do with freedom of speech or any other such things. It’s about an employee’s role in and being a representative of a company, nothing more. She insulted her company’s employer, and then bragged about it on the internet.

    This is, of course, very different from situations where people find strangers online who disagree with them politically, call the stranger’s employer, and try to get the person fired. In such cases, the person’s online activity (1) usually has nothing to do with their world or employer, and (2) the person trying to hurt the stranger by making them unemployed is doing so for political and vindictive reasons.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted November 7, 2017 at 4:02 pm | Permalink

      Your analogy breaks down, BJ. She didn’t criticize the United States government; she insulted the politician currently holding the office of the presidency. Would your analysis be the same if she posted that Donald Trump should be impeached? How ’bout if she just said (accurately) that he was doing a shitty job? What if she identified herself as a registered Republican and said she hopes Jeff Flake would run against Trump in the next GOP primary? Would those be firing offenses too?

      Some of the confusion may be that in the US the president functions as both head of government and head of state (unlike, say, in the UK where those roles are split between the PM and the head of the House of Windsor). Here in the US we don’t recognize the offense of lèse-majesté. No American need ever be required to curtsy before the Queen.

      • BJ
        Posted November 7, 2017 at 5:08 pm | Permalink

        None of your examples are insults, but expressions of either job (dis)approval or actions she thinks should be taken.

        The ultimate point is that this issue isn’t exactly a freedom of speech issue. I don’t think she should have been fired and I’m very upset that she has been, but I can’t see how this becomes an issue of freedom of speech. Your speech is not constricted by your job, but the consequences of it are contingent on the job.

        • eric
          Posted November 7, 2017 at 7:23 pm | Permalink

          The ultimate point is that this issue isn’t exactly a freedom of speech issue.

          Jerry said that quite clearly. Which is why he asked people’s opinion of it’s ethical standing rather than it’s legality.

          Personally I think your position is owerwrought. I work for a contractor and talk regularly with other contractors as well as federal government employees. Trump jokes are certainly not a daily thing but I’d say I hear one at least several times a month. Nobody gets fired. Nobody should get fired for that, IMO.

          Off-the-job personal actions certainly can rise to the level of significantly negatively impacting the corporation, and yes the corporation has the right (and I think reasonable justification) at that point to fire the employee. The question is whether this act rose to that level, and in my opinion having worked for almost two decades in exactly this industry, it didn’t. Frankly, I think the offered counter example (of the male employee using his company’s logo as a backdrop for his own personal on-line rant) is far more of a firing offense. There is IMO a huge difference in doing some political action and being found out to work for a contractor, vs. doing some political action and in that same act, advertising that you work for a contractor. The latter is much worse.

          Though clearly the leadership of Akima disagree with me.

          • BJ
            Posted November 8, 2017 at 8:19 am | Permalink

            “Trump jokes are certainly not a daily thing but I’d say I hear one at least several times a month. Nobody gets fired. Nobody should get fired for that, IMO.” Did any of you insult him directly to his face?

            Actions are no longer off-the-job when you’re doing them to someone involved in the job. That makes the action on-the-job. I agree, nobody should be fired for off-the-job actions. They can be fired for insulting a client directly and in public.

            And as I’ve said, I don’t *personally* think she should have been fired (nor would I have fired her), but am merely explaining why her firing is understandable from the company’s side of things. I don’t think it’s unethical considering the nature of this particular incident. If she had posted her hatred of Trump online, or talked about it around the water cooler, then it would be highly unethical to fire her. Unfortunately, what she did here could damage the company’s relationship with its employer, and such a risk isn’t worth keeping one mid-level employee.

  29. Kevin
    Posted November 8, 2017 at 4:50 am | Permalink

    In part we are discussing respect for the role of president.

    Trump’s values and character were well known before his election.
    In my view his election notwithstanding demonstrates a lack of respect for the role itself on the part of the electorate.

    If you knowingly place in a position of respect a person who is inadequate then you debase the role itself.

    For example, a crude, sexist, semi-literate, rambling, unintelligible, unfocused vulgarian does not have any credibility or integrity.

    Whereas the role itself may not merit disrespect, the current incumbent does not bring it any measure of respect either.


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