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