Captain Demoted Over Social Media Posts Sues Nashville for $2 Million

A Nashville fire captain who was demoted last August over social media posts, has filed suit claiming thes posts were protected by the First Amendment. Captain Tracy Turner filed suit in US District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee alleging a single count of a First Amendment violation. He is seeking $2 million in damages.

Turner alleges he was called in for questioning last July and informed that his posts “offended someone in the African American Community.” Following a subsequent disciplinary hearing in August, he was demoted to firefighter for six months.

The suit contends that Turner’s posts involved matters of public concern and were posted in his capacity as a private citizen. Quoting from the complaint:

  • When Mr. Turner posted his remarks on his personal Facebook he was speaking as a private citizen on matters of public concern and not as an employee about matters of personal interest.
  • Mr. Turner’s private and political Facebook posts were not directed at the Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County, Tennessee.
  • Mr. Turner’s private and political Facebook posts commented on matters of inherent public opinion.
  • Mr. Turner’s Facebook posts were not directed at or threatening or harassing of any employee of the Metropolitan Government of Nashville and Davidson County, Tennessee.
  • Mr. Turner’s private and political Facebook posts did not express any grievance related to departmental policies or fellow workers within his department.
  • Mr. Turner’s private and political Facebook posts did not result in any material disruption of the workplace or interfere with the ability of the Defendant to carry out its mission or goals.

Here is a copy of the complaint.

Here is more on the story including news video coverage that could not be embedded.

About Curt Varone

Curt Varone has over 40 years of fire service experience and 30 as a practicing attorney licensed in both Rhode Island and Maine. His background includes 29 years as a career firefighter in Providence (retiring as a Deputy Assistant Chief), as well as volunteer and paid on call experience. He is the author of two books: Legal Considerations for Fire and Emergency Services, (2006, 2nd ed. 2011, 3rd ed. 2014) and Fire Officer's Legal Handbook (2007), and is a contributing editor for Firehouse Magazine writing the Fire Law column.
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