Legislative staffer suspended after confrontation with 'Tennessee Three' member

Rep. Justin Jones, D-Nashville, speaks from House floor on the first day of the 2024 legislative session Tuesday, Jan. 9, 2024, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/George Walker IV)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A Tennessee legislative staffer has been placed on leave after Democratic state Rep. Justin Jones says the staffer yelled at him in a hallway.

Jones, who shot to national fame as one of two Democrats expelled by their Republican colleagues last year for their participation in a protest calling for gun control, said that he filed a complaint against the staffer last month following an incident that took place outside his legislative office.

Jones added that the staffer confronted him in the hallway, began yelling at him and didn't leave until another lawmaker intervened.

Jones said Tuesday that an independent investigation was conducted and it was determined that the staffer would be suspended until May.

“No matter who you are, no one should be talking to another person like that,” Jones said.

The staffer works for a fellow Democratic House member.

Connie Ridley, the Legislature's administrative director, provided a letter to The Associated Press that was sent to the staffer on January 30. The letter said that the staffer would be placed on “disciplinary suspension" until May 3, with pay being withheld between February 1 through February 16.

“On the evening of January 9, 2024, you were in an inappropriate confrontation with a Member of the House of Representatives,” the letter states. “This incident occurred in the hallway adjacent to the Member’s office. Your conduct failed to maintain a satisfactory and harmonious working relationship with the Member and has caused disruption in daily operations for the Member and other individuals who were impacted by your actions.”

The letter also stated that the staffer must complete “emotional and behavioral health” counseling before returning to work.

Republicans ousted Jones and Rep. Justin Pearson, a fellow young Black Democrat, last April over their megaphone-amplified protest on the House floor calling for gun control just days after a Christian elementary school shooting killed six people. Republicans spared Democratic Rep. Gloria Johnson, who is white, from expulsion for her role in the demonstration by one vote.

Jones and Pearson were quickly reappointed back to their positions and then reelected in special elections.