A former Sandy Springs Police sergeant has filed a discrimination suit against the city and its police department alleging he was fired based on his ethnicity.
Orlando Concepcion is seeking compensatory pay and punitive damages for his December 2009 dismissal for postings he made on his personal Facebook page.
Concepcion claims he was singled out for punishment while white officers who had engaged in the same actions received no discipline.
"He was singled out because he was Hispanic," said attorney Curt Thompson, who is representing Concepcion in the suit.
One month after his termination, Concepcion was issued a public reprimand by the Georgia Peace Officer Standards and Training Council.
That report, dated January 2010, cited Concepcion for unprofessional conduct, which included posting comments on Facebook about undercover operations and FBI Task Force operations and for posting demeaning comments about the law enforcement unit and its command staff.
Commenting shortly after his dismissal, Concepcion said his Facebook profile was private and only close friends and family have access. He said he was simply sharing his excitement about his job and that he never disclosed details of police operations.
"He certainly wasn't giving away any ongoing operations that would have compromised the department," Thompson said. "That is not what happened and it could not have happened based on the facts."
Thompson added that other police officers have made similar postings about their jobs, but no one published details of police operations. Concepcion was terminated for it, but the others weren't, he said.
Sandy Springs City Attorney Wendell Willard said the city had not received a copy of the suit and he would not comment on pending litigation.
Although the suit focuses on discrimination, the use of social media in the workplace and privacy rights is a simmering issue.
Debbie Seagraves, executive director of the Georgia ACLU, said there have only been a few court rulings on these matters, but most have come down on the side of a worker's privacy.
"This is all a fairly new body of law, but decisions so far are going toward protecting the privacy of people on the postings they've made on Facebook," she said.
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