“My finger said what I was feeling, I’m angry and I’m frustrated.” – Former Marketing and Communications professional Juli Briskman

TOPSHOT – 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. / AFP PHOTO / Brendan Smialowski (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)

As we all know: You cannot yell “Theatre!” in a crowded fire station.

There are indeed reasonable limits to our cherished First Amendment Right of Free Speech.

As an employee of any organization, one instinctively knows that not all speech is protected.

When are you on the clock working for the boss?

And when are you on your own time?

Is there a distinction (without a difference?)? Are they one-and-the-same?

Last month, Juli Briskman went out for a Saturday bike ride. During the course of her ride, she encountered a convoy of limousines and secret service protection. It was indeed the caravan of the 45th President of the United States.

Briskman utilized the opportunity from the bike lane to give the occupant the infamous one-finger salute.

As another sign of our digital 21st Century times, the photo of her gesture went viral. After becoming a 15-minute-plus celebrity, Briskman reportedly posted her middle-finger image on her Facebook and Twitter accounts.

As it turns out her employer, a federal contractor by the name of Akima LLC, found her gesture toward POTUS neither funny nor amusing. Briskman claimed she was just a simple bike rider on her own time flipping off the president.

Akima, located in an employment-at-will state (e.g., Virginia), quickly made the decision to fire Briskman for twice-at-least posting her single-digit salute to the nation’s chief executive on social media.

Considering the divisiveness of today’s politics, the coverage of her gesture/firing quickly became big-time news for affirmational journalists. GoFundMe reportedly even raised $30,000 to support Briskman, bringing into question whether subsequent coarsening-of-America actions will become charitable giving opportunities?

Still the basic interrogative needs to be answered: Are you really on your own time and as a result able to express yourself however/whenever you want, when you are employed on an at-will basis?

Pleasure Appointment

Five years ago, the author of Almost DailyBrett wrote about his “No Second Beer Rule,” reflecting on his tenure as a lead media spokesman/Press Secretary for California Governor George Deukmejian.

As a “Pleasure Appointee” of the 35th Governor of the State of California, yours truly never separated my official role in the Office of the Governor from my personal life. They were essentially one-and-the-same for eight years.

Many times media calls came in the middle of the night. Here’s where the no two-beer rule came into play: If I was quoted while under the influence and subsequently uttered a major gaffe, there is little doubt the governor would have relieved me from my duties.

Worse if I was pulled over for DUI, your author would NOT be just another irresponsible sap arrested for drunk driving. Instead, one can easily envision the headlines: “Governor Deukmejian Press Secy Arrested for DUI.”

There is absolutely no distinction in this case between private citizen/government employee in a sensitive job working for the governor of the largest state in the union.

Yours truly would have been immediately terminated with cause by the former attorney general and would understand completely why my foolish actions led to my dismissal. It was truly a privilege to serve the governor, and with that opportunity came a sacred responsibility.

There would not be any $30,000 support payment for me.

#HasJustineLandedYet

I’m an IAC employee and I don’t want @JustineSacco doing any communications on our behalf ever again. Ever.” – Unnamed IAC employee responding Justine Sacco’s tweet

Justine Sacco had it made.

At 30-years-young, she was the senior director of Corporate Communications for InterActiveCorp (NASDAQ: IAC), a $3 billion+ internet and media services company with more than 100 recognizable brands (i.e., The Daily Beast, Match.com, Vimeo, Angie’s List …).

During the 2013 holidays, Sacco was flying from JFK with a stop at Heathrow and then continuing on to Cape Town, South Africa. She was firing off acerbic tweets about English teeth and German body odor during her trip. And then she hit the send button on an immediately viral, less-than-140 characters tweet, which changed her life forever.

Sacco was terminated before her plane landed in Cape Town. She slept during the course of her 11-hour flight from London to Cape Town with her phone in “airplane” mode.  She did not understand the consequences of her tweet until she turned on her phone.

As a college professor teaching public relations, advertising, corporate communications and investor relations, my students are simply stunned when Sacco’s PowerPoint slide of her tweet is first presented.

Was she simply not thinking? Was she trying to be cute or clever? Is she, racist?

The answer to the first is certainly, yes. The response to the second is, most likely. The fact the third question is even asked in a serious vain is damning in-and-of itself.

She may have been on a holiday trip to South Africa and may have seen herself as simply exercising her guaranteed First Amendment Rights as a citizen. Nonetheless, she was the senior director of Corporate Public Relations for a major publicly traded company and she fired off an acerbic and insensitive tweet that comes across as racist and not caring about the spread of AIDS in Africa.

InterActiveCorp was well within its rights in terminating Justine. In fact, the company really had no choice.

Maybe if she had just flipped off the President of the United States, she may still be working for IAC today … or maybe not.

Alas, life is just not fair.

https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/woman-flips-off-donald-trump-fired_us_59fe0ab4e4b0c9652fffa484

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2012/08/02/no-second-beer-rule/

http://thehill.com/blogs/blog-briefing-room/news/359727-crowdfunding-campaign-raises-over-30k-for-woman-fired-for

http://www.foxnews.com/us/2017/11/07/woman-fired-after-flipping-off-trumps-motorcade.html

http://www.cnn.com/2017/11/06/politics/juli-briskman-motorcade-protest/index.html

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/02/15/magazine/how-one-stupid-tweet-ruined-justine-saccos-life.html?_r=0

http://uproxx.com/webculture/what-happened-to-justine-sacco-the-woman-whose-life-was-ruined-by-an-aids-joke-she-made-on-twitter/