published Thursday, June 12th, 2014

Fired Monroe County, TN workers get $500,000 settlement in political retaliation case

NASHVILLE — Attorneys say a $500,000 settlement reached over the 2010 firing of 17 Monroe County road workers, who backed the losing candidate in a road superintendent's race, should send a "powerful message" to Tennessee officials statewide.

“We hope that this case will ensure that government officials in Tennessee don’t let their politics trump their oath to abide by our Constitution when it comes to employing those who serve the public,” said David Garrison, an attorney with Nashville-based Barrett Johnston, which along with the Prestonburg, Ky., law firm Pillersdorf, DeRossett & Lane represented the workers.

According to a news release from the Nashville law firm, the settlement was reached with the state of Tennessee, Monroe County and Monroe Road Superintendent Steve Teague after three days of trial in a federal civil rights lawsuit in Knoxville.

The firm says that following the August 2010 county election, then-newly elected Teague on Sept. 1, 2010, eliminated the jobs of the 17 workers who backed his opponent in the recent election.

The fired workers later filed a federal lawsuit, alleging their First Amendment right to political speech was violated by Mr. Teague retaliating against them for supporting his opponent.

“When employees like these county road workers band together to enforce their rights, our system of justice works — by achieving a just settlement for these workers and disclosing their struggle to the public,” said Scott Tift, lead trial counsel for the workers.

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