A New York City firefighter was sick and tired of affirmative action, so he decided to do something about it.
Brooklyn firefighter Thomas Buttaro wore an anti-affirmative action shirt to work, and now he is facing the prospect of losing a job after a New York judge said he created a “hostile work environment.”
The T-Shirt simply advertises Merit Matters, an organization that opposes affirmative action in fire departments.
Administrative Law Judge Alessandra Zorgniotti said that when Buttaro refused to remove his shirt, he was being insubordinate.
“The FDNY is a para-military organization and may restrict a uniformed member’s appearance so long as the restrictions are rationally related to the department’s legitimate interests,” Zorgniotti said. She added that Buttaro continuing to wear the shirt despite being told to stop constituted a “long-term pattern of harassment” and “repeated acts of insubordination.”
Buttaro argued that he has worn the shirt for years.
“They’re disciplining him for something they’ve never disciplined anyone for before,” Buttaro’s lawyer, Adam Weiss said. “It’s a First Amendment issue. This is about the right of someone being able to express an opinion. It’s not about discrimination.”
Weiss says that both he and his client will fight to the end to protect free speech in the workplace.
“We’re going to fight this for as long as it takes to get vindicated,” Weiss told the New York Post. “There are only two sides to the story, and it looks like [the judge] took the prosecution’s side of the story and ignored ours.”
Regardless of what the judge says, Buttaro is not necessarily fired. That decision is up to Fire Commissioner Daniel Nigro, and he is expected to make a ruling next month.