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Navy Veteran: Ferguson Tweets Got Me Fired — Crowdfunding Legal Counsel

posted Nov 20, 2014, 1:11 AM by J Shaw   [ updated Nov 20, 2014, 1:12 AM ]
A Navy veteran who says his Ferguson tweets resulted in his firing is now crowdfunding to cover personal expenses and legal fees, as he fights what he calls a wrongful termination. Mark Paffrath was employed at a Drury hotel in Chesterfield, not far from Ferguson, when he took, and tweeted, the photos that he says led his employers to call him a terrorist and eject him from his job on Saturday.

According to CNN, Paffrath saw a large number of vehicles with Department of Homeland Security logos in the hotel parking lot on Thursday, and was jarred by the sight. He was sure they must have something to do with Ferguson, and he took a short video and some photos, and posted them on social media. (Though many of the Navy veteran’s Ferguson tweets remain in his timeline, the photos and video are no longer there.)

On Saturday, Paffrath says, he was called into the boss’ office, where the head of security for the hotel called him a terrorist, and said he’s done dishonor to his country.

Paffrath maintains that the social media policy for employees does not trump his First Amendment rights as a citizen, and that he feels he didn’t violate hotel guests’ privacy, since he did not mention a location. The location, he says, was only named after he was fired.

On his social media page, Paffrath says he’s consulted the ACLU and a lawyer. He also has a GoFundMe page set up, taking donations for his legal fees and personal expenses.

However, First Amendment rights apply to the government limiting speech — not to private employers. The NJ Law Blog explains how this applies.

The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, for example, does not apply to private employers. Generally speaking, private sector employees are not entitled to First Amendment free speech protection, even when speaking about job-related matters in the course of their employment duties results in adverse employment action.
The hotel chain is receiving a little bit of blowback for their decision to fire the Navy Veteran for his Ferguson tweets, though. On their Veteran’s Day Facebook post, some customers are sounding off.

Stay away from this police state loving and veteran bashing establishment.

I can assure you this veteran will sleep under a bridge before I spend one cent to stay at one of these places. We owe our vets better treatment than Mark Paffrath got from this employer.

After reading about your treatment of a US Navy vetern under your employment. I can guarantee that you will never see me inside your hotel. You can thank the director of security for your company for that.

Turned your back on a veteran who did nothing more than share information that the public has a RIGHT to know about. How dare you! YOU are the terrorist!

Missouri’s Governor Jay Nixon has already declared a state of emergency in advance of the Grand Jury decision, after threats of violence from the KKK (which resulted in Anonymous hacking the white supremacy groups’ Twitter account.)

The early call of a state of emergency has offended many residents, and there has been outcry over police presence, as well as over use of armored cars and riot gear. Seeing DHS vehicles so near the community, it’s little wonder that Paffrath wondered about the connection — but was he within his rights to share the information? Should the Navy veteran’s Ferguson tweets have gotten him fired?

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