Nashville EMS chief receives 10-day suspension for anti-LGBT remarks

Nashville fire with lankford for web.jpg

An EMS District Chief of the Nashville Fire Department who posted anti-LGBT opinions to social media has received a 10-day suspension without pay from the city government. 

Tim Lankford must also attend diversity awareness training, which was mandated for all metro employees by Mayor Megan Barry last month in light of online remarks such as the ones posted by Lankford.

One such post read: "The first man who goes into a restroom with my daughter will not have to worry about surgery."

Despite questioning Lankford on the content of his posts during a disciplinary hearing on July 13, specifically toward his opinion of the LGBT community in Nashville, the final decision regarding disciplinary action makes no reference to the LGBT community and only regards his violations of these policies and rules:

Nashville Fire Department Operational Procedures and Guidelines
– Social Media Policy Section 11.2

Adherence to Policy & Rules of the Metropolitan Government

Civil Service Rule 6.7
– Violation of any of the rules or regulations of the Metro Civil Service Commission
– Conduct unbecoming an employee of the department
– Any failure of good behavior which reflects discredit upon himself, the department and/or the Metropolitan Government
– Violation of any written rules, policies or procedures of the department in which the employee is employed.

The Lankford case was unique in that his indiscretions were revealed in real-time. Over a number of days, his online profile acknowledged his employer, a violation of the social media policy, and then the employer was removed but antagonizing posts toward the LGBT community continued, until ultimately the profile was removed entirely from Facebook. 

Marisa Richmond, a lobbyist for the Tennessee Transgender Political Coalition (and who recently served as official timekeeper at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia), told O&AN: "Ten days without pay can hurt. I hope it makes him open his heart and mind. We shall see if it does any good. This definitely bears watching."

Chris Sanders of the Tennessee Equality Project lauded Nashville government in the context of LGBT engagement in other Tennessee cities. 

"NFD is enforcing its social media policy," he said. "Based on my travels around the state, Metro is observing a higher standard than the vast majority of cities in Tennessee. We should look at whether that is enough. My ongoing concern, besides the climate these incidents create for fellow employees, is that Metro department leaders be vigilant in making sure that employees are hired, promoted, disciplined, and terminated without regard to their sexual orientation or gender identity. That is what the 2009 Metro ordinance requires."