NEWS & ANALYSIS

Conservative Employees Run Risk of Job Loss for Personal Political Views


Earlier this month, Lancaster, PA’s Democrat Mayor Danene Sorace announced the “retirement” of the town’s Police Chief, Jarrad Berkihiser.  The President of Lancaster’s Fraternal Order of Police subsequently issued a statement saying that Berkihiser was given the choice to retire or be fired because his wife had made a post on Facebook favorable to President Donald Trump.

This is the latest in a series of reported incidents where people are facing either sanctions or terminations in the workplace over their, or a family member’s, private support of President Trump.  Conversely, the same standard does not seem to be applied when evaluating the private activities of employees who are critical of the President.

In Madison, CT, teacher Chelsy Zelasko was fired from her position at Grove School for posing semi-nude for a photo posted on a pro-Trump website.   Grove School Executive Director, Peter Chorney, sent a letter to Zelesko when he learned of the photos asking her to resign.  When she refused, he fired her.  Zelesko is suing the school for damages.

In Milwaukee, WI, dental assistant Robyn Polak reported she was fired after making innocuous comments on her Facebook page in support of the President.  When a patient of the practice took to Yelp to post that members of the dental staff were “racist,” the office manager called her and said “we can’t get bad reviews.  We have to fire you.”

In Michigan, 28 year old teacher Justin Kucera of Walled Lake Western High School was fired after posting tweets in support of the President and suggesting that schools should be open in the fall.  While the school denies that was the reason for termination, no other reason was given.  Kucera reported that other teachers at the school had posted anti-Trump messages on social media and were not disciplined.

While employer action being taken against employees for their personal political beliefs appears to be intensifying, it is not new.  Back in 2016, Lizzy Matthews, a nurse at Denver health Medical Center for 27 years reportedly lost her job for discussing her support of President Trump with a patient.  Her statement came in response to the patient asking her a question about the election.  Matthews filed a lawsuit against the hospital.

It is not only support of President Trump that can lead to termination.  Criticism of any contemporary liberal orthodoxy can result in an employee losing his or her position.  In Fresno, CA, teacher Timothy Gordon lost his position at Garces Memorial High School for criticizing Black Lives Matter.  Gordon has been unrepentant since his termination citing the need to “always be on the offensive.”  Gordon’s tough stance aside, the termination did create personal hardship for him as he has a daughter suffering from serious medical issues.

These types of stories do not appear to have counterparts that involve liberal employees losing their positions for statements that might be deemed offensive to others not sharing their views.  To the contrary, it appears that attacks on the President or conservative causes are falling under the heading of “protected speech” in today’s American employment climate.  A temporary suspension seems to be the most drastic response an employer is willing to make in even the most extreme cases.

At Marshall University, Professor Jennifer Mosher was only suspended after a having a video of herself posted online where she says of Trump supporters “…I hope they all die before the election.  That’s the only saving hope I have right now.  Definitely bootlickers.”

Back in 2017, Dallas, Payal Modi, a teacher at Adamson High School was only suspended for posting a video of himself shooting a squirt gun at an image of President Trump and repeating the word “die.”

While these instances of conservative employees being terminated from their positions because of their, or their spouses, political views may not be per se First Amendment legal violations, they do represent a violation of the spirit of the First Amendment.  Regardless of the outcome of the November election, such workplace persecutions are likely to only become more commonplace.