Looking for a quality used fire truck? Selling one? Visit our sponsor Command Fire Apparatus
Each time I run a story about a fire department firing someone over a social media post there are comments complaining it’s a “double standard”. What those people are claiming is that firefighters of different races are held to different standards over what’s okay to post and what’s taboo and how disciplinary actions are handled.
These commenting about a double standard conveniently forget there’s no national standard for social media and/or discipline that public safety agencies across the country subscribe to. The standards and the punishment are all handled at the state and local levels. I can show you fire departments that do their best to ignore even the most outlandish and provocative social media posts from all its employees. Many other departments police employee social media use much more diligently.
Usually these claims of a double standard end up comparing apples to oranges. But now we have an actual apples to apples comparison that has resulted in a lawsuit. It’s from Columbia, South Carolina where a white fire department captain is claiming racial discrimination over his firing following a Facebook comment where he threatened to run over Black Lives Matter protesters. We ran multiple stories about Capt. Jimmy Morris when it occurred in 2016 and his later discrimination complaint. Here’s a reminder of what Morris wrote that got him into trouble:
Idiots shutting down I-126. Better not be there when I get off work or there is gonna be some run over dumb asses.
Public Service Announcement: If you attempt to shut down an interstate, highway, etc on my way home, you best hope I’m not one of the first vehicles in line in line because you ass WILL get run over! Period! That is all….
African-American firefighters from the same department also posted comments that pushed back strongly at BLM blocking roadways. In addition, one fire firefighter complained about a rumor that Burger King was refusing to serve firefighters and wrote “I hope you bitches have insurance”. Those firefighters were not terminated.
Morris is also claiming his First Amendment rights were violated when he was fired. A magistrate didn’t buy the 1A argument and is letting only the racial discrimination case go forward. It will now be up to a jury to decide if there really was a double standard at play within the Columbia Fire Department.
As always, the best place to get information about these things is from Curt Varone at Fire Law Blog. Curt has a much more detailed account of this case, including a focus on the First Amendment aspects at play.