I want to thank my co-presenters, Amy Epstein Gluck, Jonathan Segal, Gregory Slotnick, and everyone who attended the Zoom on Friday, November 10, 2023, when we discussed antisemitism and the workplace. We recorded it, and you can view it here on YouTube.
One of the topics we covered was employees getting doxed and fired for engaging in antisemitic behavior online.
But what if one of these employees sued the person who got them fired?
For example, last year, I blogged about a man fired from a CEO position in Tennessee after a viral TikTok video altercation with a boy in a red dress. He then filed a lawsuit in Tennessee against the actress Kathy Griffin, who allegedly took to X (back then, it was Twitter) to encourage the CEO’s employer to fire him.
Should Ms. Griffin, who resides in California, have to defend this lawsuit in Tennessee? Yes, according to the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals.
There’s a Supreme Court case from 1984 in which a California actress sued Florida journalists in California for publishing a defamatory article. The Supreme Court allowed the CA lawsuit to proceed because the defendants intentionally engaged in conduct “expressly aimed at California,” not “untargeted negligence.” They consulted “California sources” for the article whose “focal point” concerned California. And they knew that the actress would experience the brunt of the injury in California, where the magazine had its largest circulation and where she lived and worked.
Here, the plaintiff, a Tennessee resident, accused Ms. Griffin of publishing a tweet that involved a video filmed in Tennessee that cost him his job in Tennessee. The Sixth Circuit noted that “Griffin intended that the ‘brunt of the harm’ would befall [the plaintiff] in Tennessee when she urged her followers to pressure [the plaintiff’s employer,] a Tennessee-based company, to fire him and urged [the company] to remove him from the Board.”
Unlike a similar prior lawsuit that the Sixth Circuit dismissed in which some Kentucky school students alleged that Ms. Griffin tried to dox them on Twitter after a much-publicized confrontation with a Native American at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC, the Sixth Circuit noted in the Tennessee lawsuit that “Griffin’s repeated emphasis of [the plaintiff’s] residence in Franklin and the company’s home base in Nashville hammers that home. She ‘undoubtedly knew’ that the ‘focal point’ of her tweets concerned Tennessee.” Therefore, the lawsuit can proceed in Tennessee against Ms. Griffin.
Regardless of who or why an employee may get doxxed, employers don’t need a reason to fire an at-will employee. If the online behavior is antisemitism or any takes on any other form of discrimination, that will suffice. Free speech or not, these actions can have consequences at work, and there is no constitutional right to a job.