Firefighter Fired Over Facebook Post of Virtual Firefighter Video

HATZEL VELA
WCSC 5
Reprinted with Permission

COLLETON COUNTY, SC - A Colleton County paramedic and firefighter was fired over a video he posted on Facebook.

On February 11, Jason Brown was called into the director's office and questioned about the video he posted the previous night.

The Facebook post takes you to a YouTube-like site, where a video almost three minutes in length shows an exchange between two cartoon characters at a hospital.

One is a doctor, the other a paramedic.

In a letter of dismissal Brown provided, Colleton County Fire-Rescue Director Barry McRoy said, "You [Brown] displayed poor judgment in producing a derogatory video depicting a member of this department with a physician which is implied to be at Colleton Medical Center."

"There was no malicious attack to anybody involved personally or countywide or any certain department ever," said Brown, who spent two hours making what he described as a text-to-movie video.

On the web site xtranormal.com, you can create characters and even make them look like you. Users can type in a script and the cartoon-like character will say what you write.

"I'm not trying to make any doctor or any nurse look stupid," Brown said.

He said he wasn't even talking about Colleton Medical. He only used the name of a doctor who works at that hospital because he had recently seen him at a party.

It was supposed to be a funny, exaggerated and an almost unbelievable story of real life on-the-job experiences, Brown said.

"It's just general things that go on in the day-to-day business of us running calls within any fire department, any EMS," he added.

The dismissal letter also said, "This video has created an embarrassing situation for this department, our public image and the cooperative relationship we enjoy with Colleton Medical Center. It reflects poorly on you and Colleton County."

Brown appealed the decision, but his appeal was denied.

[See the rejection of appeal letter (pdf).]

Brown never meant any harm, he said.

"If I knew it was going to give me this much headache, I never would have made it in the first place," he added.

Brown said he was told his video was racist because the cartoon character playing the doctor role was African-American and during one of the exchanges the character said, "I don't want to lose my job and go back to being a janitor."

"That was never, ever in my actions or even thoughts when I made the video," Brown said.

When making the video, a black doctor was the only option offered, he added.

Getting fired was a little overboard, he said.

McRoy wouldn't give details about the Brown's firing because he said he couldn't discuss personnel matters.

But he said the Facebook incident wasn't the only reason Brown was fired.

Brown said he has never been seriously reprimanded and points to the dismissal letter as proof the Facebook post was the only reason he was fired.

If asked to take down the post, he would have done it and that would have been the end, he said.

Brown said after he was fired, he was escorted to the station where he returned all his gear, while two officers supervised him.

"I felt like a criminal," he said.

Prior to working at Colleton County Fire-Rescue for three and a half years, he worked at Berkeley County EMS and Goose Creek City Fire.

He said he left those two places because Colleton County paid more.

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Greenman says There's always one more way. :-)

Apparently 14 pages of different ways... ;-)
Jason says Now I'm just looking to set a precedence so this does not happen to anyone else in the service.

Jason, at the risk of pissing you off (which is not my intention), you have set the precedence. Unfortunately, the precendence that has been set for others is to learn from your issue and not to do this sort of thing, whether in jest or not and not in any way shape or form as to identify the author, the characters, etc...
I have been reading and noticed that some are confused on what is a right, a privilege or a choice.
FF Brown does NOT have a right to have a Facebook account, nor does he have the RIGHT to post whatever he wants there. It is privately held and an account can be closed for ANY reason; just like here.
We have a RIGHT to our opinions and we have a right to communicate them. However; we may not have the right to communicate them wherever we choose. We may have to ASK for the PRIVILEGE if it's on private property, which in essence, a privately held website IS private property.
FF Brown made the CHOICE to make a video that could identify his fire department. If he had spoken with his department about his concerns, then he would have various protections of rules of law. But, he chose to go via the Internet and that changed the whole picture or in this case, the perception of the motive behind the video.
I have no doubt that there was no malicious intent on Brown's part, but again, putting it in the public domain changes everything. I have no doubt that Brown didn't believe that he could be fired for posting such a video, but was. His freedom of speech is not the issue. He DOES have a right to make a video and he does have the privilege of posting it on Facebook and he CHOSE to do so.
And his employer has the right to terminate him if what he does violates an employment contract.
It is not as clear cut as many of you make it out to be.
If FirefighterNation chose to close this thread right now, there is NOTHING we can do. They didn't violate anything. They simply exercise their rights as the owners.
Keep that in mind. WE do not own this site. THEY do, so it is their rules. Like it or not. Same with Facebook. Same with your fire department.
You don't have to like it. You don't have to agree with it. Life isn't always fair and the good guys don't always win.
If you look around, you can look at FF Brown's case and know that departments are getting spooked by their stuff getting into the public domain. Otherwise, you would not be seeing policies on cell phone cameras, social media websites, helmet cams and all of the other stuff hitting the internet.
Does anyone remember a few years back the firefighters who drove an engine to their buddy's wedding in Class A uniforms and were photographed in the engine cab drinking? Remember the dust up?
There have been hundreds, I'm sure.
If your goal in life is to get on YouTube, then staple your tongue to a board while video-taping it. And then get upset because someone said that was a dumb thing to do.
Our ignorance is starting to show with the various social medias.
Art,

We do all have the right to make our opinion known wherever we chose to. There are consequences to where and how you chose to post, speak, or otherwise express your opinion, as FF Brown found out the hard way.

I will concede that the department does have the right to terminate any of its employees for any reason it deems appropriate, as they have done in this case.

While the animation does violate the CCFD idea of maintaining a harmonious relationship with other entities it works with, that does not make the animation slander as some have claimed.

FF Brown's animation is protected speech, and the ironic part of this episode in my opinion is that had the department Chief directed FF Brown to take it down and post no further items of that nature, and used a lower-level of discipline, nobody outside of the Department, and possibly the Colleton Medical Center, ever would have known about it. Now that FF Brown is not employed by Colleton County FD, they cannot make him remove the animation, or stop him from posting it elsewhere, or stop him from making more. In fact it is already embedded in almost all news stories about it. Since the department chose to terminate him, it has become a national story (international since FFN members hail from all parts of the globe). I doubt we've heard the last of this story, no matter who is "right" and who is "wrong." None of these cases have made it far enough through the judicial system yet to consider it settled matter, especially any which do not involve department property, department time or violations of the law.

Greenman
Lutan, I hear you loud and clear. It does not make my pissed at you at all. I totally agree. If my intentions had been to make a point or show frustration to the dept this would be worth it. But since it was the farthest thing from my mind when I made it, this has went way further than I ever thought. Please learn from this and do not put you or your family in this position.
G-Man:
Set, match and game.
The only thing with this case left to speculation is if it is strong enough to get to, then go through the judicial system, in terms of free speech considerations.
I don't think that it will go anywhere with regards to slander/libel.
I said; I don't think.
Art
UFB!!! (Unfriggin' Believable)...I can identify with calls for an ALS "engine" on a code 3 interfacility call...WTF? Not to mention not having pprwrk ready, nor having had called report to receiving facility!!!

Talk about some seriously over sensitive people...if you can't laugh at yourself in this job, you're in the wrong job....sorry bro...
Freedom of Speech.

Sounds like a law suit to me.
This is "politics for you"!!!! I feel that there has been an injustice served, and they got the last laugh! Dirty politicians win again!!!
This is being discussed at http://www.firerescue1.com/fire-department-management/articles/7680...

Which has an attorney speaking about the situation. Good read for everyone here.
well i didnt even hear where this guy was from... so how did it damage the departments image?
Isn't it sad that we just cannot laugh at ourselves anymore?? That we really do not have free speech anymore?? These "social networks" might be all the thing right now, but will fall out of favor fast if we all have to keep looking over our shoulders....

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