Rioters who stormed the U.S. Capitol now face backlash at work

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NEW YORK – A Maryland printing press saw the photo on Twitter Wednesday night: an employee walking through the halls of the U.S. Capitol with a company badge around his neck. He was fired the next day.
Others face similar repercussions at work for participating in Wednesday’s riot on the U.S. Capitol. Some business owners are trashed on social media and their establishments boycotted, while core employees of other businesses have been fired.

The printing company, Navistar Direct Marketing, declined to name the worker, but said it could not offer employment to people “demonstrating dangerous driving that endangers the health and safety of others.”

More than 90 people have been arrested since Wednesday when loyalists to incumbent President Donald Trump disturbed lawmakers as they gathered to confirm the Electoral College results and the victory of President-elect Joe Biden. People on social media tried to identify the rioters pictured or filmed on Capitol Hill Wednesday, lobbying the companies that employ them to fire them.

At a data analytics company in suburban Chicago, the employee in question was the primary boss. Cogensia sacked CEO Bradley Rukstales on Friday night for his participation in the riot.

“This move was made because Rukstales actions were inconsistent with Cogensia’s core values,” newly appointed interim CEO Joel Schiltz said in a statement. “Cogensia condemns what happened on Wednesday at the United States Capitol, and we intend to continue to embrace the values ​​of integrity, diversity and transparency in our business operations, and we expect all employees that they also embrace these values. ”

Rukstales, who was arrested for illegal entry, told a local CBS news channel that he entered the Capitol and apologized for his role in the events. Calls and emails to Rukstales were not returned.

An occupational therapist at the Cleveland school has resigned from the district after her alleged involvement in the riot. A spokeswoman for a fire department near Orlando, Florida, said one of its firefighters was under investigation for his involvement. Sanford Fire Department firefighter Andy Williams has been placed on paid administrative leave pending the outcome, spokeswoman Bianca Gillett said.

Most private employers can fire workers for attending protests, as First Amendment rights only prohibit people from being punished by the government for their speech, not by a private employer, said Susan Kline, a lawyer. of Indianapolis-based labor and employment law firm Faegre Drinker.

There are a few exceptions: Those who work for the government may be more protected by law, as are many unionized workers, who usually have a contract listing the reasons they could be fired. And some states may have laws that protect workers’ free speech.

But “what people did on Capitol Hill on Wednesday was riots, not protests,” said Aaron Holt, a labor and employment lawyer with the Cozen O’Connor law firm. “When someone breaks the law, it will hardly ever be protected, and a private employer will have the right to discipline or take action in response to anything that might go against their core core values. ”

Small businesses are also facing backlash from online review sites like Yelp, which has reported at least 20 businesses for unusual review activity related to Wednesday’s riots.

One company, Becky’s Flowers in Midland, Texas, is owned by Jenny Cudd, a former mayoral candidate who posted a video on Facebook bragging about breaking into the office of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. On Friday, Cudd’s flower shop was inundated with dozens of one-star reviews in which she was labeled a traitor and domestic terrorist, as well as photos of her inside the Capitol.

Cudd later said in a video message to The Associated Press that she had not personally walked into Pelosi’s office or seen people breaking through the door, and that when she said “we” she was talking about everyone who was at the Capitol. She said she hadn’t done anything violent or destroyed any property.

“I walked through an open door into the Capitol with several hundred other people,” Cudd said.

She added that she had “received several death threats as well as thousands of one-star reviews from across the country from people who have never been to my business.”

Yelp has reported businesses for unusual review activity following less egregious but still controversial events. Critics have raged on the Yelp page of restaurant Virginia The Red Hen after she kicked former White House press secretary Sarah Sanders from her establishment a few years ago. And commentators on the left and the right bombarded Big Apple Pizza’s Yelp page with political beliefs after former President Barack Obama was enthusiastically kissed by a customer.

Social media has made people aware of their involvement in activities outside of the workplace, which has put them in trouble with their employers. In 2017, after a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, many posted photos on social media of those who participated, in some cases leading to their dismissal.

Customers in Louisiana said they would boycott the Rouses Market supermarket chain after retired owner Donald Rouse was shown in a photo during Wednesday’s riot. Rouse said in an email he attended the rally as a supporter of the president, but left before the violence began.

“I am horrified by the violence and destruction that we saw yesterday and the pain it caused so much,” Rouse said. “Our country is in desperate need of coming together to heal, and I will do all I can to be a part of this process. ”

The Krewe of Red Beans, a group that hosts parades, posted on Instagram that they would return $ 20,000 in donations received from the market.

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