In October 2017, cyclist Juli Briskman was photographed giving the middle finger to President Donald Trump's motorcade during a weekend bike ride in Virginia. The photo quickly went viral, and on the Monday after it was taken, Briskman informed her employer, government contractor Akima, that she was the cyclist pictured. The next day, she was fired.
Now, Briskman is suing Akima.
"I filed this lawsuit against my former employer today because I believe that Americans should not be forced to choose between their principles and their paychecks," says the 50-year-old single mother of two in a statement shared with CNBC Make It on Wednesday.
At the time of the event, Akima said that Briskman was forced to resign because she was in violation of the company's social media policy for sharing the photo on her Facebook and Twitter accounts. CNBC Make It reached out to Akima but had not received a response at the time of publication.
"I never imagined that my 'one-finger salute' to the Presidential motorcade and its occupant would cost me my job," says Briskman. "The actions of my company were swift and unexpected."
One reason Briskman was surprised about her firing is because several months prior, she had reported a male colleague — whose Facebook cover photo featured a reference to the company — for calling a coworker a "f-----g Libtard a-----e" during a discussion about Black Lives Matter on Facebook. The man, a senior director of operations, was not fired.
In a statement provided to CNBC Make It, Briskman's legal defense argues that the difference between Briskman and her coworker is that Akima "did not want to be associated with opposition to the President."
Briskman's suit argues "that it violates Virginia employment law for a government contractor to fire an employee out of fear of unlawful government retaliation."
"It is un-American," says Briskman, "to let the government use your own tax dollars to buy your off-duty obedience."
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