Cancel culture at best silence’s things that might need to be silenced, but at worst, it destroys lives and livelihoods. Every day we see a little of both, but we have seen too much of the latter. When and where does it stop?
For one woman, the power of Twitter ended her employment simply for having a Parler account and a Gab account. What was her job, and what did she post?
Meet Colleen Oefelein. A literary agent that once worked at The Jennifer De Chiara Literary Agency. Was she horrible at her job? Did she call in often or have a horrible work ethic? We do not know, but what we do know is that after it was brought to the agency’s attention on Twitter that Oefelein had the audacity to have a Parler account and a Gab account, her employer fired her.
“Well thanks, Twitter and @JDLitAgency. I just got fired because I’m a Christian and a conservative.”
How did it start? An anonymous Twitter account called YA Whispers informs Jennifer that one of her agents simply “used” a social media platform and should be terminated. Jennifer DeChiria was tagged in the exchange.
“Does @JDLitAgency know or care that one of their agents frequents alt-right social media like Parler and Gab?” the Tweet reads.
The Tweet YA Whispers referenced from Oefelein was a Twitter post from November 12th in which she states, “I am now on Parler. It’s a great platform with no censorship! Giving away a few critiques there next week. Come find me @collenOefelein.”
The owner of the Literary agency Jennifer DeChiara commented on the tweet. “Thank you for bringing this to my attention. I have taken swift action, and as of this morning, January 25th, Colleen Oefelein is no longer an agent at this agency.”
YA Whispers thanks her for taking action. To which DeChiara replies, “The Jennifer DeChiara Literary Agency has in the past and will continue to ensure the voice of unity, equity, and one that is on the side of social justice.”
She continues, “The Jennifer DeChiara Literary Agency was distressed to discover this morning, January 25th, that one of our agents has been using the social media platforms Gab and Parler. We do not condone this activity, and we apologize to anyone who has been affected or offended by this.”
So Oefelein must have said some horrible and offensive things on those platforms, right? Wrong. As a matter of fact, the only things that were found in her posts were work-related as she attempted to reach out to all audiences.
“Have I told you lately that I want Romance? Please send me your romance. More instructions here: jdlit.com/colleen-oefelein” she wrote on Gab.
I reached out several times to the agency for comment and was promptly sent to voicemail, where I have yet to hear back from anyone at the agency.
Is the firing legal? Unfortunately, New York is a fire at will state. While protections do apply to some, it is a complicated matter that needs to be scrutinized before one can determine if the Agency’s actions are legal.
It is not known if the employee in question was under contract. If she was, a breach of contract suit could be filled. I have reached out and, as of yet, have not gotten a response from Oefelein.
Employees cannot be lawfully terminated by participating in “protected concerted activity.” This generally allows employees to discuss and criticize their employer when it relates to working conditions, employment policies, and decisions while talking with other workers.
Social media posts should not be used as justification to terminate an employee when the firing is based on the employee having a protected class characteristic, such as termination based on the employee’s race, color, sex, religion, age, or disability. If an employer uses the social media post on this basis, it is likely in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the ADEA or the ADA.
Some states have established laws that prohibit terminating employees based particularly on social media content or other information. For example, some states do not allow employers to terminate employees for activities that they engage in during their own time so long as the activities are legal. Other states protect the political beliefs of employees by prohibiting employers from disciplining employees for making political statements.
However, within those laws, as stated by several legal professionals that I spoke with concerning the matter, the idea that a person could be fired for simply being on a public platform and not for the speech contained on that platform is a new thing. Apparently, it is a 2121 problem that will have to be hashed out in the courts for precedent and any future protections to be added to existing laws.
Clearly, Oefelein felt that she was terminated based on her Christian beliefs and her political beliefs. While her case in the courts would be an uphill battle, it is one that would provide some answers for today’s climate. However, if the case was lost in the courts, it would be open season for anyone and everyone to be persecuted in a similar fashion for merely participating in social media platforms.