Federal judge dismisses railroad conductor’s Free Speech lawsuit following offensive online behavior

First posted January 3, 2023 5:21pm EST
Last updated January 3, 2023 5:21pm EST

All Associated Themes:

  • National Security
  • Professional Consequences
  • Social Media
Picture: AEMoreira042281

A federal judge dismissed a Free Speech lawsuit filed by a former Long Island Rail Road conductor who alleged he was wrongly fired for his social media conduct, which included offensive language and symbols of white power. 

Key Players 

The Long Island Rail Road (LIRR), a commuter rail owned by the New York Metropolitan Transportation Agency (MTA), stretches from Manhattan to the eastern tip of Suffolk County, on Long Island. 

Steven Rosati, a former LIRR conductor, was fired after his offensive social media posts surfaced online. 

Pat Foye, the MTA chair, condemned Rosati and his conduct. 

Key Details 

On Jan. 21, 2021, Rosati was suspended without pay from the LIRR pending an investigation into his social media activity. The videos and photos in question displayed far-right political beliefs and featured posts of him in the vicinity of the Jan. 6 insurrection attack on the U.S. Capitol building, New York Post reported. 

The posts also showed Rosati harassing people who were waiting in line for COVID-19 vaccines, as well as him protesting outside of a Long Island post office, where he claimed it was illegally sending ballots to Pennsylvania. Other posts had offensive language and imagery, including a white power symbol, Bloomberg reported. 

In two separate TikTok posts before the Jan. 6 riot, Rosati shared his intent to travel to the Capitol. “The Deep State needs to be broken up. It is now that time. Donald J. Trump has one month to do this,” Rosati said. “And that’s what people are waiting for, waiting on the Bat-Signal by him. So Trump, one month. One month left.”  

At an LIRR press conference, following Rosati’s suspension, Foye condemned Rosati. “What he’s said on social media is outrageous, despicable and the sign he’s a jackass,” Foye said. “His conduct at the Capitol ought to be investigated, and is being investigated.” 

On May 11, following the investigation, Rosati was fired. Five months later, he sued the LIRR and MTA, alleging it violated his First and 14th Amendment rights. 


Federal Judge rules against Rosati 

On Aug. 23, 2022, U.S. District Judge Lorna G. Schofield, appointed by former President Barack Obama, dismissed the lawsuit, saying Rosati had failed to identify or describe what MTA policy had violated his Free Speech rights, Bloomberg reported. 

Rosati’s claim of Free Speech deprivation against Foye was also dismissed, as Rosati failed to show that Foye was directly involved with his firing and suspension, Schofield said. 

Amended complaint to be potentially filed 

However, Schofield advised that Rosati could file an amended complaint that better identifies which MTA policy violated his Free Speech rights, a task Rosati reportedly planned to do, Bloomberg reported. 

As of Jan. 3, 2023, there were no further developments.