UPDATED: Nashville Firefighter To Get $450k Settlement

A Nashville firefighter who was disciplined over a social media post is poised to accept a $450,000 settlement from the city. Josh Lipscomb, who besides being a firefighter is a comedian that goes by the stage name of Josh Black, was suspended for fourteen days for the Twitter post he made in February, 2022.

Lipscomb made the post under his stage name in response to a city council decision to allow license-plate readers. The post stated: “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. These folks want us dead.”

After the discipline was announced, Lipscomb filed suit in Davidson County Chancery Court contending it violated his First Amendment right to free speech. In October, 2022, Davidson County Judge Patricia Head Moskal concluded that two of the four policies that Lipscomb challenged, were unconstitutional restrictions of employee free speech. She issued a preliminary injunction barring enforcement of the policies.

The $450,000 settlement has been recommended by the city’s legal department. It goes before the Metro Council for Nashville & Davidson County tomorrow evening for final approval. More on the story.

Update: December 22, 2022 – the Metro council has approved the $450k settlement. A previously undisclosed part of the settlement became public: as part of the agreement, Lipscomb will resign from the fire department. The city has updated its policies to comply with the First Amendment. More on the story.

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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