Executive Forced Out Over Tweets
Jennifer Sey, a top executive at Levi Strauss & Company with more than 20 years at the company and a leading candidate to be its next CEO, claims that she was forced out because of her tweets advocating school reopenings during COVID, questioning the efficacy of masks for young children and accusing Dr. Fauci of fear mongering.
Ms. Sey also appeared on Laura Ingraham’s show on Fox to discuss her move from San Francisco to Denver so that her children could attend school in person. In addition, she did a YouTube interview with Naomi Wolf, who was barred from Twitter for spreading misinformation about COVID vaccines.
According to Ms. Sey, she turned down a $1 million severance package because it would have barred her from speaking about the reason she was forced to resign. She claims that she was subject to “viewpoint discrimination.”
In most states an employee has no remedy for “viewpoint discrimination,” but Connecticut is different. Connecticut General Statute 31-51q prohibits an employer disciplining or discharging an employee from exercising the employee’s right of free speech.
The Connecticut Supreme Court has held that the statute protects employees’ speech both on and off the job.
However, the employee’s speech is protected only if it “does not substantially or materially interfere with the employee’s bona fide job performance or the working relationship between the employee and employer.”
There is little case law on what would interfere with an employee’s job performance or the working relationship with the employer, so employers should be wary about basing an employment decision on the employee’s speech outside the workplace regarding matters of public concern.