The Investigators: Were former EBRSO deputy's free speech rights violated?

The Investigators: Were former EBRSO deputy's free speech rights violated?

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Tracy Baker was fired from the East Baton Rouge Sheriff's Office after 26 years. His termination letter said officials reviewed his "previous employment history" with the sheriff's office and because of that and what they called violations related to his Facebook post, he was fired.

The post in question is from Sept. when Baker posted to Facebook about what he said happened to him at the McDonald's in Central. He said his drive-thru lane was moving slower than the other drive-thru lane, and when he confronted a worker, he heard her say, "F---ing a--hole cop. Black lives matter too."

His termination letter said he lied to internal affairs investigators when he said his wife made the post for him. But a source told the 9News Investigators, sheriff's investigators believe it was actually posted from his work computer.

The sheriff's office also has policies against "personal use of social media" that their posts reflect on their position with EBRSO and that employees are free to express themselves if it does not impair working relationships, cause significant disruption of EBRSO operations or discredit the sheriff's office or individual employee.

Local attorney John McLindon is not involved in this particular case, but reviewed the case for us.

"In this case, this man apparently is stating his opinion," said McLindon.

McDonald's issued a statement to 9News saying they have a long history of supporting law enforcement.

They asked for and got a restraining order against the former deputy to ban him from posting any more about McDonald's on Facebook.

Posts such as where Baker said "McDonald's has sided with the black lives matter movement that is killing law enforcement all over the country" and a picture that said "McDonald's does not back the blue."

In their petition to the court, McDonald's said "The reckless, defamatory and damaging allegations of baker are not only untrue and merit-less, they are irreparably damaging the hard earned community reputation of petitioners."

Judge Michael Caldwell from the 19th Judicial District Court approved the restraining order, also called an injunction.

"If McDonald's has been damaged by his statements, then they need to file a regular lawsuit, not an injunction and go to a jury that this man's statements damaged him. I'm not sure an injunction is the proper remedy," said McLindon.

McLindon agrees Baker needed to adhere to sheriff's department policies and any violations would have allowed the sheriff to fire him, but he said it's unusual for the courts to get involved.

"Usually, an injunction prohibits or stops conduct. In this case, you have an injunction stopping speech. Now that implicates the 1st Amendment, freedom of speech so you have a branch of government, the judicial branch, apparently trying to stop this man from stating his opinion on something," said McLindon.

Last week, Baker said he received an email from a lawyer for McDonald's with the restraining order attached and the email saying "The temporary restraining order is therefore now in effect."

Baker said he has still not been served in person.

Kiran: Do you email restraining orders or do they need to be served?
McLindon: A restraining order, this man needs to be served. The email was probably just to let him know it had been signed.

9News reached out to Chris Valluzzo and Sheriff Sid Gautreaux again on Tuesday, but both declined interviews. A hearing is scheduled on this case Monday, Nov. 23rd, at 11am at district court in downtown Baton Rouge to determine if the restraining order will remain in place.

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