Virginia firefighter suspended without pay over alleged online comments

HENRICO, Va. – A firefighter is suspended without pay as Human Resources investigate if inflammatory social media posts were made from the employee’s account.

The Henrico Division of Fire confirmed the matter is under investigation, and deferred to Paula Reid, Director of Human Resources for comment.

Reid could not yet say if the account belonged to the firefighter but acknowledged their investigation would reveal whether or not it belonged to the firefighter seen representing the department on his Facebook profile.

Reid provided the name of the firefighter suspended, but we will not publish his name until the department’s investigation determines the account is his.

The profile, which was removed within 12 hours of a letter sent to Henrico Fire Chief Anthony E. McDowell, contained messages perceived by the tipster as “racist, misogynistic, Islamophobic and transphobic.”

“His postings are outrageously offensive and reflect very poorly on your department and the county of Henrico,” wrote the tipster, who did not respond to an interview request by time of publishing.

The comments in question were made from his account, on another person's post.

The submitted screenshots contained profane comments that read in part [GRAPHIC WARNING]:

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A copy of Henrico County’s social media policy shared by the Human Resources department indicates that county employees have some freedom of expression on private social media accounts, as long as the comments do not impair professional relationships.

An excerpt of the policy is below:

“Employees are free to express themselves as private citizens on social media sites to the degree that their content does not impair professional relationships in the workplace, impede the performance of their job duties or negatively affect the public perception of Henrico County. Employees may not utilize social media in a manner which could lead the reader to believe such postings represent the official position of Henrico County.”