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Journalist Fired for Disagreeing with Editor's Opinions


As Dan Solomon recognized in a recent article he wrote, not many men think about the threat or fear of being raped. Worrying about such things as whether it's safe to walk home, or whether someone might slip a "date rape" drug into your drink at a party, is not common for most men. But as Solomon discovered recently, a man can still be affected by the current culture of skepticism regarding complaints of rape. He claims to have lost his job at CultureMap, a news publication in Dallas, Texas, because he wouldn't get on board with the rest of the skeptics.

The Story of Ryan Romo

It all began with a rape accusation against a local baseball star in a wealthy Dallas neighborhood. Ryan Romo, 18, allegedly gave a young girl a ride home from a concert in Dallas. Two days later, she accused him of raping her in the back of his SUV. CultureMap ran a story with the headline, "Is this Highland Park baseball star a rapist?" The author of the article was CultureMap's managing editor, Claire St. Amant, who suggested that the girl may have been lying about what actually happened. The female editor expressed this opinion: "Kids are supposed to mess up. They lie. They cheat. They get caught. They grow up. But throw a sex act in the mix, and childish ways are all but left behind."

Amant did not support her opinion with any facts, alleged or otherwise, that would logically suggest the victim fabricated her story. However, she emphasized her cynicism in the last sentence of the article: "If it's a case of impulsive teenage decisions, remorse and guilt, then no one suffers more than 18-year-old Ryan Romo."

Solomon Objected to the Opinions in the Article

At the time, Dan Solomon had been working as a freelance author for CultureMap for a long time. Solomon strongly disagreed with the editor's comments in the article, "speculating about whether a teenager who has filed rape charges is a liar, when you have no facts in the case to report." Solomon also felt strongly that he did not want his name, as a freelance author, to be associated with the opinions of this editor or the publisher that allowed them to be printed. Solomon said that, at the time the story went live, his face was on the main page of CultureMap's site. Obviously, this didn't sit well with Solomon, so he felt compelled to say something.

On his personal blog, he posted his apology for what CultureMap had posted about the rape story and clarified that he had nothing to do with it. He went a step further and admonished the publication for the distasteful article. Solomon said, "I'm really disappointed in CultureMap's choice to publish such offensive — and stupid! — bull****."

The Consequences of Standing Up for What You Believe

A week or so later, Solomon was asked by his editors to take down the post, which expressed his disdain for the publisher's actions. When he refused to do so, as any self-respecting journalist would, he was told they could no longer work with him.

From an employment discrimination lawyer's perspective, the question that arises is this: Can they refuse to work with Solomon because he expressed his opinions? Isn't his right to do just that protected by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution? Under some court interpretations of the Right to Free Speech, journalists are protected in certain circumstances, even if the statements they publish are defamatory and false. But what about when your employer does not agree with your personal posts on social media? Can you be fired for that?

This is by no means a novel issue. In fact, there is an article on the internet listing "12 examples of people getting fired over Facebook." At least 5 of the 12 examples involved cases where the disagreeable behavior of the employee on Facebook did not reflect well on the employer, and they were subsequently terminated. An employer's liability for discrimination or violations of constitutional rights are very fact specific inquiries that require skilled and experienced employment rights attorneys to analyze. If you believe you may be a victim of employment discrimination, feel free to contact our firm for a consultation to discuss your rights.

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