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Fire department captain loses job after writing anti-gay comments on Facebook

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An Iowa Firefighter lost his job after posting an inappropriate comment about gay porn to a subordinate’s Facebook page.

Captain David Bernal was already on his final warning in his role at the Des Moines Fire Department. Despite having been with the department for decades, he was demoted in 2021, losing his captain title after violating ethics, business conduct, and violence prevention policies, according to the Iowa Capital Dispatch.

The warning to Bernal reportedly stated that “any further violation of the City of Des Moines workplace policies, including of any type of retaliation towards any members of the fire department, or the City of Des Moines, will subject you to immediate termination.” He proceeded to earn back his captain position.

Then, in early June of this year, he commented on a Facebook post by a department medic that included photos of the medic on a fishing trip with a group of children after having traded shifts with a colleague. Bernal allegedly commented, “Next time pick someone less fascinated with gay porn to trade with.”

At a hearing on the matter, Judge Blair Bennett believed Bernal’s claim that his comment was in connection with wisecracks the team had been making the day before but reportedly said it was “far less credible” that Bernal did not intend to insult gay people or those who watch porn.

“Although banter between parties in a firehouse occurs, and is to be expected, the statement of someone watching too much gay porn was intended to be insulting,” Bennett said. “This was shown through [Bernal’s] inadequate explanation as to why he chose to use this statement.”

Bennett ruled that Bernal was guilty of workplace misconduct and denied him unemployment benefits, explaining that “the statement undoubtedly puts the captain and the fire department in an unfavorable light.”

Bernal was fired on June 16, 2023 after more than 30 years of working with the Des Moines Fire Department.

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