Democracy is threatened when someone is fired for dissenting with a regime, Juli Briskman, who was fired for flipping off President Donald Trump's motorcade, wrote in The Washington Post.
Briskman, a marketing and public relations professional, relayed her story in an opinion piece about being fired after a photo of the incident went viral. She told her employer that she was the cyclist in the picture, Briskman said.
Her employer understood her First Amendment right, but told Briskman that she was terminated because of a social media policy that prohibits "obscene" or "inappropriate" content, Briskman wrote.
Briskman quoted James Madison, who said Americans have freedom to examine "'the merits and demerits of the candidates.' But if Americans can keep their jobs only when they refrain from criticizing the president, then that freedom is lost," she wrote.
The company, Akima, does business with the government, and executives "obviously" were concerned that the Trump administration could take action against them, she noted.
"That pressure — making citizens choose between their pocketbooks and their principles—starts a downward spiral that ultimately dismantles a democracy," Briskman wrote.
"The First Amendment bars retaliation against me by Trump. But Trump doesn't need to punish me for my speech if fear of him spurs my employer to do it," Briskman wrote in the Post.
"A private employer can't suppress my freedom of expression on my own time out of fear of illegal government retaliation without violating Virginia government law, which is why I filed a lawsuit against my former employer this week," she wrote.
Virginia government law prohibits firing over fear of illegal government retaliation, Briskman said, which is why she sued her ex-employer Wednesday.
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