Nashville Firefighter Claims Discipline Over Sick Leave is Retaliation

A Nashville firefighter who is suing the city contending his earlier discipline violated his First Amendment rights, has been disciplined again resulting in him amending his original complaint to include retaliation. The complex case involves firefighter Josh Lipscomb, who is a comedian that goes by the stage name of Josh Black.

Lipscomb was disciplined following a social media post he made last February. The post on Twitter said: “I hate feeding into the illusion that America’s government and existence is legitimate, so I’m no fan of voting. But the majority of Nashville City Council is white supremacists. I know it’s boring, but millennials have to start caring about local elections.” It was made under his stage name.

Following the issuance of a fourteen-day suspension, Lipscomb filed suit in Davidson County Chancery Court challenging the punishment, and contending a violation of his First Amendment rights. In the meantime, the department initiated an investigation into Lipscomb hosting an event under his stage name while off on sick leave on March 18, 2022. Following a hearing on April 26, 2022, Lipscomb was suspended for an additional eleven days.

That second suspension prompted Lipscomb to amend his complaint in Davidson County Chancery Court to allege the discipline over the March 18, 2022 sick leave was retaliation for his earlier free speech activities.

Here is a copy of the disciplinary decision:

Here is a copy of the amended complaint:

About Curt Varone

Curt Varone has over 45 years of fire service experience and 35 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, 4th ed. 2022) and Fire Officer's Legal Handbook (2007), and is a contributing editor for Firehouse Magazine writing the Fire Law column.

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