Judge Blocks Enforcement of Two Nashville Fire Policies That Limit Employee Speech

A Tennessee judge has issued a preliminary injunction barring enforcement of two Nashville Fire Department policies that regulate employee speech. The ruling came in a lawsuit filed by a firefighter who was suspended for calling the city council “white supremacists” in social media.

Josh Lipscomb filed suit in April claiming his suspension is unconstitutional. Lipscomb, who is a comedian, criticized a city council decision on license plate readers by posting on Twitter:  “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.” The post was made under his stage name, Josh Black.

Last week, Judge Patricia Head Moskal concluded that two of the four policies that Lipscomb challenged, were unconstitutional restrictions of employee free speech. The two policies were described by The Tennessean as a “defamation policy” and a “derogatory notices policy.”

A copy of the ruling is not available on Lexis or other web sites. It will be posted here if/when it becomes available. However, according to The Tennessean, the defamation policy was found to be unconstitutionally vague, and the derogatory notices policy was “overbroad and seems to prohibit protected speech.”

More on the story.

Update October 20, 2022: Here is a copy of the court’s ruling:

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.

Check Also

Wrongful Death Suit Against Maine City and Firefighter is Dismissed

A wrongful death lawsuit against the City of Portland and a city firefighter over the drowning death of a man who was being pursued by police, has been dismissed. Eric Cohen died on April 12, 2020 after he jumped into the frigid bay waters.

Jury Awards Former Houston Firefighter $250k Over Nude Video

A Harris County jury has awarded a former Houston firefighter $250,000 in damages against her former captain for unlawfully sharing a nude video of her. Melinda Abbt filed suit against Captain John Chris Barrientes and the city, alleging sexual harassment and violation of a Texas law titled “Unlawful Disclosure or Promotion of Intimate Visual Material.”