s
s
Sections
Sections
Subscribe

Nathan Medina said all was going well until he got angry about rock singer and political activist Ted Nugent.

Medina worked for The Doctors Management Company of Napa, a subsidiary of The Doctors Company, which calls itself the nation’s largest physician-owned medical malpractice insurer.

Based out of the company’s East Lansing, Michigan office, Medina worked as a government relations specialist, lobbying for the insurance industry in 15 northeastern states.

Now he’s embroiled in a federal lawsuit he filed against his employer for firing him in November 2017, alleging it violated his freedom of speech.

The case is now in pretrial discovery in which the parties are investigating the facts in question, with the next court-imposed deadline coming up the end of the month.

About a week before Medina’s firing, then-Speaker of the Michigan House of Representatives Tom Leonard announced he’d been endorsed by Nugent in his campaign for Michigan Attorney General.

Leonard posted a picture of himself to Facebook standing with the controversial rocker, a dead deer held up between the two.

Medina said he thought the post was highly inappropriate for a man running for election as the state’s top law enforcement officer.

“(Nugent) hates women. He hates gay people,” Medina said in a recent interview. “He’s just a horrible, horrible human being. So when I saw that our speaker … was promoting this endorsement, it was kind of jarring.”

Medina reposted Leonard’s Facebook post with his own comments strongly criticizing Leonard.

“This pencil necked State Rep — and AG hopeful — ain’t no rocker,” according to Medina’s post. “But I wonder — does the worst Speaker of the Michigan House of Representatives have a thirst for ‘Jailbait’ like Theodore Nugent?”

In the song “Jailbait,” released in 1981 when Nugent was 32, Nugent described a sexual relationship with a 13-year-old girl. At the end of the song, the narrator is arrested and offers to “share” the girl with the officer in exchange for letting him go.

At least two women have accused Nugent of sexually assaulting them when they were minors.

Nugent has denied those allegations, and his spokesperson did not return a request for comment for this story.

He has a long history of racist and misogynist remarks, including in 2012 calling President Barack Obama a “subhuman mongrel.”

In 2017, Nugent told the Washington Post he’s decided to be “more selected with my rants and in my words’’ and said “in the Democrat and liberal world, that we have got to be civil to each other.”

In his federal lawsuit filed in Michigan in September 2018, Medina claimed that he was fired after Leonard made it known he would not speak to him after the Facebook post. Medina alleged The Doctors Management Company fired him over that post, and the Napa company and Leonard therefore violated his First Amendment rights.

He also claimed his employer discriminated against him on the basis of being Latino, since his white work colleagues engaged in similar political speech with no consequences.

In federal court filings, Leonard denied he pressured the Napa medical malpractice insurance company to fire Medina. For its part, the company has denied in court documents it fired Medina over his political speech, attorney Jaclyn Giffen wrote for The Doctors Management Company.

However, in documents dealing with an earlier complaint Medina brought before the Michigan Department of Civil Rights, a Doctors Company executive said another insurance company executive contacted her to tell her that Leonard “wanted the post taken down.”

And Giffen admitted in a Michigan Department of Civil Rights filing that Leonard’s refusal to work with Medina did, in fact, lead to his firing.

“Speaker Leonard would no longer meet with Mr. Medina for business purposes,” Giffen wrote. “(Medina) could no longer effectively perform the essential functions of his Government Relations Specialist position and had become a liability as his peers and the Speaker refused to be seen with him or accept his meeting requests.”

Giffen did not return multiple requests for comment, and a spokesperson for The Doctors Company said the company doesn’t comment on ongoing litigation.

Leonard, also, did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

“Tom Leonard intervened and coerced the Doctor’s Company to retaliate against him because of his free speech,” Medina’s lawyer Jack Schultz said. “Basically, the easiest way to sum it up is Tom Leonard said jump and the Doctor’s Company said how high, and it was all in retaliation for my client’s free speech.”

Schultz said the case is particularly relevant given ongoing public battles over freedom of expression on social media.

“What issue is more relevant now than reactions to social media in employment of protected free speech,” he said. “I think there’s a good chance this case ends up in a textbook, regardless of outcome.”

You can reach Staff Writer Andrew Beale at 707-521-5205 or andrew.beale@pressdemocrat.com.