Some people just don’t know how to quit while they’re ahead. And a white Columbia, S.C., firefighter who was fired after posting to social media that he would run over protesters if they were still blocking traffic when his shift was over has now filed a lawsuit claiming racial discrimination.
James “Jimmy” Morris, who was the Columbia Fire Department captain, lost his $53,722-a-year job after making the threatening posts about a Black Lives Matter protest, The State reports.
According to the report, Morris claims in his lawsuit that the government cannot “restrict or otherwise chill individual civil rights.”
Life came at ol’ Jimmy real fast back in July 2016. As The State notes, it all started when Black Lives Matter staged a counterprotest to a white secessionist Statehouse rally about the Confederate flag. The counterprotest shut down the Interstate 126 corridor on the west side of the city, prompting Morris’ ire.
“Idiots shutting down I-126. Better not be there when I get off work or there is gonna be some run over dumb asses,” he posted.
“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 because your ass WILL get run over. Period! That is all,” he wrote in another post, doubling down on his threats.
The very next day, city officials fired Morris, with City Manager Teresa Wilson denouncing the Facebook posts, adding that they demonstrated “a lack of respect for the lives and safety of others.”
In the pending lawsuit, Morris says that he supports racial equality and the right of protesters to peacefully assemble, but claims that blocking a public roadway was not proper “because of safety concerns.”
He claims in the suit that the comment that he would run over protesters was “exaggerated,” and that the posts on Facebook were “about matters of public concern and was not made pursuant to his job duties.”
The First Amendment prohibits firing a government employee for speaking out on matters of public concern, Morris’ lawyer Paul Porter noted, according to The State.
I’m still not quite sure how threatening to run over protesters is a matter of public concern, but perhaps there’s something I’m missing?
Anyway, how did this become a racial-discrimination lawsuit?
Well, Morris’ lawsuit claims that while he and two other white co-workers were fired because of similar Facebook posts, two black co-workers who made the same sorts of posts were not. One was suspended and the other was not disciplined at all, he claims.
“Plaintiff was terminated based on his race,” the lawsuit states.
Morris says that before his termination, he consistently got “above-average, exceeding or (at worst) average performance evaluations” during his 17-year career. Just a month before he was fired, he was commended for saving a person in a house fire.
“We believe this case is important, and that we can ultimately prove both a free-speech violation and race discrimination,” Porter told The State. “Our lawsuit says that Jimmy was terminated for engaging in free speech and that other nonwhite employees engaged in the same sort of speech and were not terminated.”
Morris is now a firefighter at another fire department in South Carolina’s Midlands region. He is seeking unspecified damages for back pay and lost benefits, loss of reputation, and mental and emotional distress, The State notes.
Read more at The State.