The world watched in horror as a group of insurrectionists forced their way into the United States Capitol building last week. The rioters damaged property while carrying racist, white supremacist symbols. They also interrupted Congress as members were certifying the results of the Electoral College, a sacred tradition in our democracy. The incident led to the death of five Americans, including one Capitol Police officer who was beaten by a mob.
Scenes of the riots lit up social media and news networks all over the world. Authorities say they have received 50,000 tips as they continue to track down individuals who took part in the destruction and vandalism. So far, the FBI has confirmed that over 100 individuals have been arrested for their alleged involvement in the riots.
Fired for Rioting
Lori Vinson, of Morganfield, KY, has confirmed that she was at the Capitol at the time of the insurrection. She took photos and videos of the event and posted them to her personal social media account.
“I hope that is something I remember and say, ‘I’m glad I was a part of that’ 30 years from now,’” Vinson said, looking back on her participation in the riots.
In addition to those who have been arrested for looting and defacing one of our nation’s most important spaces, others have been called out for attending the riots. Social media detectives have been identifying individuals spotted in the videos and photos posted online.
“The doors were open, people were filing through, there were no signs that said, ‘Do not enter,’” Vinson told a local news outlet of her experience. “There were no cops saying ‘Don’t come in.’”
She was fired from her job at Ascension Vincent Hospital in Evansville, Indiana just two days after the insurrection. Official paperwork shows that she was terminated for admitting to engaging in criminal behavior at a high-profile event.
“You know people have asked, ‘Are you sorry you’ve done that?’ Absolutely I am not. I am not sorry for that, I would do it again tomorrow,” Vinson said of her experience.
As for the violence and damaging public property, “I participated in none of that,” Vinson said. “I would never participate in that. Because I was there for a peaceful protest and that’s what I was doing. I felt like I have done nothing wrong and I wouldn’t change it.”
Looking at the photos and videos posted to social media, some rioters can be seen antagonizing Capitol police and threatening violence inside the building, with others walking around looking for a bathroom.
Vinson has also confirmed that the FBI contacted her after the insurrection. “The whole conversation was about 10 minutes long,” she said. “And he said, ‘Thank you, you won’t be hearing from me again.’”
Understanding At-Will Employment
In terms of losing her job, Vinson says she has appealed the decision as is waiting to hear back.
“I’m not mad. I’m hurt that Ascension didn’t see my worth to them. But I’m not upset that I stood up for what I thought was right,” Vinson said.
Many rioters say they breached the Capitol to protest the results of last year’s presidential election, while others were outright calling for violence.
Indiana is recognized as an “at-will” state, which means that private employers can fire their employers for any reason.
According to the National Council of State Legislatures:
Employment relationships are presumed to be “at-will” in all U.S. states except Montana. The U.S. is one of a handful of countries where employment is predominantly at-will. Most countries throughout the world allow employers to dismiss employees only for cause. Some reasons given for our retention of the at-will presumption include respect for freedom of contract, employer deference, and the belief that both employers and employees favor an at-will employment relationship over job security.
However, “at-will” employment doesn’t apply to illegal discrimination.
While the hospital has yet to comment on the matter, Ascension clearly believes Vinson no longer belongs at the facility.
Since the riots took place, Vinson isn’t the only one feeling the heat.
An Illinois real estate firm fired one of its agents after they were caught at the Capitol during the riots. The firm said it “does not condone violence, destruction or illegal activities.” Cogensia, a marketing company, also fired its chief executive, saying their actions were inconsistent with its “core values.”
Legal experts say private companies have to do their homework before firing an employee. They must first check to see if the worker broke any laws. Other companies may fire their workers if they embarrass or tarnish the company’s brand.
Some of the rioters could be seen wearing pins and badges of their employers, which implicates these companies in the chaos.
While employers cannot simply fire someone for supporting President Trump, workers should realize that if they stand up for anti-democratic principles, sexist or racist ideology, they do so at their own risk.