CIR is representing Greg Krehbiel in a federal lawsuit against his former employer for discrimination based on race and political opinion.
BrightKey Inc., a Maryland-based marketing fulfillment services company, retained Krehbiel as a consultant in December 2019 and in February 2020, hired him as its full-time vice president of operations with responsibility for client support and warehouse operations. Shortly after beginning his new job, BrightKey granted a Krehbiel a $10,000 bonus in recognition of his excellent performance.
In July 2020, BrightKey abruptly terminated Krehbiel’s employment in response to pressure from other employees who disagreed with political opinions Krehbiel expressed in an off-work podcast. BrightKey’s actions violated Howard County, state, and federal anti-discrimination laws.
In his spare time, Krehbiel produces a podcast with a friend. The two review craft beers and discuss salient and sometimes controversial political and social issues. Prior to starting full-time employment, Krehbiel spoke with BrightKey’s President Rita Hopes Counts to apprise her of the podcast and make sure that it would not be objectionable to BrightKey. Counts assured Krehbiel that what he did on his own time was his business and would not affect his employment.
In two podcasts broadcast later in 2020, Krehbiel and his co-host discussed various government policies concerning race, including diversity requirements and the promulgation of “hate crime” laws (that is, crimes motivated by a dislike for individuals because of their race or religion, among other criteria). Krehbiel and his co-host expressed skepticism over the propriety of these types of government policies.
In June, other employees of BrightKey became aware of Krehbiel’s podcasts. Some of them objected strenuously to a white person expressing such views. Specifically, they claimed that Krehbiel’s views on diversity and hate crimes were manifestations of “white privilege.” They demanded that BrightKey fire him and, shortly afterward, they marched into the parking lot in protest of his continued employment.
BrightKey Fires Krehbiel
Despite Counts’ earlier promise to Krehbiel that his off-the-job podcast was his own business and would not affect his role at BrightKey, BrightKey quickly acceded to the wishes of the objecting employees and fired him. In agreeing to their demands, BrightKey knew that the objecting employees were motivated by Krehbiel’s political views and by the fact he was a white person expressing those views. The suit alleges that BrightKey’s actions violated federal, state, and county anti-discrimination laws.
Updates on this case
Workplace Free Speech Suit Before the Fourth Circuit
The Center for Individual Rights has filed its opening brief to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in Krehbiel v.…
CIR Appeals Workplace Free Speech Decision
CIR is appealing a district court decision in our workplace free speech case...
CIR Files Legal Challenge to Workplace Political Opinion Discrimination
On November 15, the Center for Individual Rights filed a political opinion and racial discrimination lawsuit against BrightKey, Inc., a Maryland…