A US cyclist who was sacked over a viral photo of her making an obscene gesture to President Donald Trump’s motorcade is suing her former employer. Juli Briskman was fired by government contractor Akima LLC in November 2017 after a press photographer travelling with the president captured the image.
“Americans should not be forced to choose between their principles and their paychecks,” her lawsuit states.
Her lawyers argue her right to free speech was violated by the firing.
Ms Briskman, 50, was on a weekend bike ride in October 2017 in the Washington DC suburbs when she encountered the armoured presidential motorcade.
A pool photographer shared the image with journalists, and it quickly became the fodder of late-night TV comedians.
“I never imagined that my ‘one-finger salute’ to the Presidential motorcade and its occupant would cost me my job,” the single mother of two teenagers said in a statement accompanying her lawsuit.
After she was fired, an online fundraiser to help her find a new job raised over $130,000 (£92,000).
I lost my job over a Facebook post
“This lawsuit I filed today is not just about me. It’s about telling @realDonaldTrump that the government’s tax dollars cannot buy employees’ off-duty obedience,” she tweeted on Wednesday.
The lawsuit was filed in Fairfax, Virginia, by the group Protect Democracy, which describes itself as a nonprofit “dedicated to preventing our democracy from declining into a more authoritarian form of government”.
Ms Briskman says that Akima LLC forced her to resign for allegedly violating the company’s social media policy.
She had come forward to management earlier to share that she was the one seen in the viral photo.
“I thought that it would probably get back to my company eventually,” Ms Briskman told CNN.
However, she argues that earlier in 2017, the company’s senior director of operations posted in a Facebook discussion about Black Lives Matter: “You’re a [expletive] Libtard [expletive]”.
She claims that executive was allowed to delete the offensive comment and keep his job.
The lawsuit argues that she was not terminated for “the supposed obscenity of the middle finger”, but rather because of “concerns about upsetting the federal government”.