Juli Briskman, a marketing analyst, claims she was illegally forced to quit her job because a picture of her flipping off President Trump’s motorcade when viral. A Virginia state judge tossed her claim of unfair firing but preserved her second claim that her former employer cut her severance pay short.
Judge Penney Azcarate granted Briskman’s former employer, Akima LLC’s, motion for a demurrer on Briskman’s unfair termination claim from the bench. The Judge also rejected the company’s claims that it did not actually agree to pay Briskman four weeks severance as she claims.
Briskman’s legal representation stated that the judge outlined where there were deficiencies in the plaintiff’s argument that she qualifies for a public-policy exemption from at-will employment doctrine of the state of Virginia. Briskman and her legal representation see it as a chance to shore up the claim. Briskman’s attorneys plan to take the opportunity to review the complaint, and make amendments so the complaint may satisfy the court.
According to the original complaint, filed by Briskman in April, she was forced to quit her job because the company feared the notoriety caused by the viral photo could cost Akima LLC government contracts. The infamous photo was taken by a photographer in October. Briskman was on a weekend bike ride when President Trump’s motorcade went by and she flipped it off. At first, Briskman was not identified, but later she updated her social media profiles with the image. The picture was featured a few days later on both The Tonight Show and Jimmy Fallon. At this point, Akima forced Briskman to resign for fear of negative reprisals against the company due to the notoriety of the photo.
Akima is a private company in Virginia where state law allows businesses to fire most employees for any reason. But Briskman argues that the company was in violation of the state’s at-will employment doctrine because Akima fired her as a result of fear that they could face retaliation and lose government contracts. As it would be illegal for the government to punish the company for an employee’s political views, Briskman claims that the company was barred from firing her for the situation. Briskman also claims Akima breached her employment contract when they promised four weeks of severance upon her resignation and then only paid her for two.
If you have questions about wrongful termination or other need to discuss other unfair firing claims, please get in touch with one of the experienced California employment law attorneys at Blumenthal Nordrehaug Bhowmik De Blouw LLP.