MEMPHIS, Tenn. (localmemphis.com) – Local 24 News political analyst and commentator Otis Sanford shares his point of view on the ruling ordering MLGW to rehire a worker who was fired over social media posts.
A recent ruling by a Memphis based federal judge just might be the most important and far reaching decision to come from the West Tennessee federal bench in years.
Judge Jon McCalla ruled that a white employee of Memphis Light, Gas and Water was wrongly fired in 2017 for making bigoted comments on social media and to the press. McCalla ordered MLGW to give Michael Goza his job back as a customer service field technician and pay him nearly $200,000 in back salary and compensatory damages.
The judge said that even though Goza’s comments were offensive, he had a constitutional right to say them. And because MLGW is a public company, and in effect a government employer, Goza’s firing violated his First Amendment right to free speech.
Obviously, some will criticize the ruling. But all indications are it’s the right decision. Yes, Goza’s comments were clearly racist. He made most of them in the aftermath of the violent white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia in August of 2017. But whether Goza will actually return to his old job remains to be seen.
The utility could appeal the ruling, which would create an even broader debate about free speech versus hate speech. Or Goza could simply collect his back pay and damages and move on. Either way, this case will speak volumes about what people should and not say on social media. And that’s my point of view.