Saturday, November 25, 2017
News Roundup

She flipped off Trump — and got fired from her government contracting job

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It was the middle-finger salute seen around the world.

Juli Briskman’s protest aimed at the presidential motorcade that roared past her while she was on her usual cycling ride in Northern Virginia last month became an instantly viral photo.

Turns out it has now cost the 50-year-old marketing executive her job.

On Halloween, after Briskman gave her bosses at Akima LLC, a government contracting firm, a heads-up that she was the unidentified cyclist in the photo, they fired her.

"I wasn’t even at work when I did that," Briskman said. "But they told me I violated the code of conduct policy."

Her bosses at Akima, who have not returned emails and calls requesting comment, showed her the section of their social media policy when they canned her.

"Covered Social Media Activity that contains discriminatory, obscene malicious or threatening content, is knowingly false, create (sic) a hostile work environment, or similar inappropriate or unlawful conduct will not be tolerated and will be subject to discipline up to an (sic) including termination of employment."

But Briskman wasn’t wearing anything that connected her to the company when she was on her ride, nor is there anything on her personal social media accounts — where she wordlessly posted the photo without identifying herself — to link her to the firm.

She identifies herself as an Akima employee on her LinkedIn account but makes no mention of the middle-finger photo there.

Wait. It gets even more obscene.

Because Briskman was in charge of the firm’s social media presence during her six-month tenure there, she recently flagged something that did link her company to some pretty ugly stuff.

As she was monitoring Facebook this summer, she found a public comment by a senior director at the company in an otherwise civil discussion by one of his employees about Black Lives Matter.

"You’re a f------ Libtard asshole," the director injected, using his profile that clearly identifies himself as an employee of the firm.

In fact, the person he aimed that comment at was so offended by the coarse nature of it that he challenged the director on representing Akima that way.

Briskman flagged the exchange to senior management.

Did the man, a middle-aged executive who had been with the company for seven years, get the boot?

Nope. He cleaned up the comment, spit-shined his public profile and kept on trucking at work.

But the single mother of two teens who made an impulsive gesture while on her bike, on her day off?

Adios, amiga.

Briskman is not a strident activist.

That day on her bike, she wasn’t planning to make a statement. She was feeling much like many other Americans who are frustrated with Trump’s behavior and the way he has performed as president.

"Here’s what was going through my head that day: ‘Really? You’re golfing again?’?" Briskman said.

So she did what millions of Americans do on the road every day.

Hail to the chief, RESIST-style.

Then, as the motorcade stopped, bisecting her usual route, she changed her route, and punctuated the final insult with another one-fingered salute.

She had no idea the sentiment had been snapped by photographer Brendan Smialowski for AFP and Getty Images. And that night, it started popping up all over.

A few of her friends thought they recognized her.

"I said ‘Yeah, that’s me. Isn’t it funny?’?"she said. Ha ha. And she posted it as her Facebook cover photo and her Twitter profile picture, so her 24 Twitter followers could guess that it was her.

The next few days, though, it started getting nasty at the yoga studio, where she is a part-time instructor — which she does mention on Facebook. Some threatening emails came, Briskman said.

"They told the owner of the studio she should fire me," she said. So Briskman quickly removed mention of the studio.

But knowing that connection had been made, Briskman wanted to make her bosses at Akima aware of the situation.

"It was just a heads-up," she said.

It didn’t take long for her head to roll.

And now, heads are shaking.

Briskman has contacted the American Civil Liberties Union about the case.

Her bosses told her they support her First Amendment rights. But they wanted her to "be professional," she said.

Does Briskman regret that middle finger, that reflexive moment that wasn’t all pussy hat and protest signs, that wasn’t calculated resistance but rather a totally relatable, plain-old, working woman, living-my-life, what-the-heck-is-going-on-in-our-world reaction?

Nope. "I’d do it again," she said.

Resist, sister.

Washington Post

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