The bicyclist who flipped off the President's motorcade has been fired, but has no regrets

A woman on a bike gestures with her middle finger as a motorcade with US President Donald Trump departs Trump National Golf Course October 28, 2017 in Sterling, Virginia.
Brendan Smialowski/AFP | Getty Images

On October 29th, a photo of a female cyclist went viral after she was caught giving the middle finger to President Donald Trump's motorcade during a weekend bike ride in Virginia.

According to the White House pool report, as reported in The Guardian, Trump's motorcade "overtook a female cyclist, wearing a white top and cycling helmet, who responded by giving the middle finger."

When the cyclist, Juli Briskman, went to work that Monday, she informed the HR department of her employer, government contractor Akima, that she was the woman in the now-famous photo.

The next day, she was fired. Akima said that because she had used the photo on her Facebook and Twitter accounts, she was in violation of the company's social media policy.

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"They said, 'We're separating from you,'" Briskman told HuffPost's Jennifer Bendery. "Basically, you cannot have 'lewd' or 'obscene' things in your social media. So they were calling flipping him off 'obscene.'"

The 50-year-old mother of two had worked as a marketing specialist for Akima for six months. She says she was stunned her employer took such drastic actions given that she was not working during the time of the incident and because her social media profiles do not tie her to Akima.

Briskman said she previously reported a male colleague — whose Facebook cover photo featured a reference to the company — for calling a coworker a "f-----g Libtard a-----e" on Facebook. The man, a senior director, was not fired.

"How is that any less 'obscene' than me flipping off the President?" she asked HuffPost. "How is that fair?"

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Akima did not immediately return requests for comment.

Briskman does not have many legal options for challenging the company's decision. Virginia is an employment-at-will state, which means that an employer can fire "any employee at any time, for any reason, or for no reason," according to the Virginia Department of Labor and Industry website. "As a general rule, therefore, the employee has no right to challenge the termination."

Akima's decision to fire Briskman has renewed a heated conversation regarding freedom of speech in the workplace. In August, Google fired software engineer James Damore for circulating a controversial diversity manifesto. That same month, Cole White was fired from his job at Berkeley-based hot dog vendor Top Dog because of his participation in a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Though different, all three instances highlight the same fact: Political speech in or out of the office can get you fired.

Still, the cyclist says she does not regret her decision. She tells HuffPost that in the future she hopes to work for an organization like Planned Parenthood or PETA. "In some ways, I'm doing better than ever," she says. "I'm angry about where our country is right now. I am appalled. This was an opportunity for me to say something."

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