Thursday, December 21, 2017

Fired Atlanta Fire Chief Wins Challenge To Outside Employment Rules

In Cochran v. City of Atlanta, Georgia(ND GA, Dec. 20, 2017), a Georgia federal district court gave a partial victory to a former Atlanta fire chief who was dismissed from his position over a book which he wrote.  The book, designed as a religious guide for men, called those who engage in extramarital or in homosexual sex "wicked" and "ungodly."  Plaintiff Kevin Cochran contends that he was fired because of his religious speech.  The city says Cochran was fired for ignoring the city's pre-clearance rules for outside employment, facilitating a public relations campaign against the mayor and the city, and also creating city vulnerability for employment discrimination claims. (See prior related posting.)

The court dismissed plaintiff's retaliation, free speech and free exercise claims.  However the court refused to dismiss plaintiff's challenges to the city's pre-clearance rules for outside employment.  The court granted plaintiff summary judgment on his prior restraint challenge to the pre-clearance rules, as well as on his claim that the rules are unconstitutional content-based restrictions that invite unbridled discretion by the city.  AP reports on the decision, indicating that the two sides have different views as to what issues remain to be determined in the case.