A MassHealth manager who compared people filing complaints about the maskless to Germans turning Jews in to the Nazis says MassHealth had no right to fire her for what she said in her off hours and is suing to get her job back, plus damages.
As first reported by the Herald, Denise Foley sued MassHealth on Friday in Norfolk Superior Court, alleging that her superiors not only violated her First Amendment rights, they fired her without proper hearings or notification, in violation of her federal and state due-process rights.
Besides, she adds, she wasn't complaining about masks - she claims she wore one herself, just about the sort of rats who would snitch on people not wearing masks. And her job as training and communications director had nothing to do with telling people about masks - she was in charge of helping to educate MassHealth workers and outside counselors how to sign people up for MassHealth.
Foley is represented by the Liberty Justice Center, a Chicago law firm that also sues to get the government to send money to private and parochial schools.
Foley's own complaint goes into great details about just what she posted on a Facebook page for Milton residents after she dove into a discussion about reporting unmasked people:
In my opinion, calling the authorities on your neighbors for not wearing a mask is the same as calling the authorities to tell them your neighbor is a Jew. It’s bad enough that I see in the police reports people calling in to report their neighbors are having parties and that a group of kids is gathering. Now there are those encouraging people to call on people not wearing masks?! Don't you get it? Don't you see what people are encouraging?! How dare anyone try to take away my rights! I have the right NOT to wear a mask if I don't want to. I have the right to gather with friends and family if I want to. If that’s a problem for you or anyone else, report me!
The complaint continues that Foley wasn't about to back down:
After several more commentators continued to criticized Foley's stance, she posted another reply stating: “And there are lawsuits challenging the constitutionality of these mandates. I wear a mask when I have to. That's not the issue. The issue is people turning in their neighbors for not wearing them.”
Another Milton Facebook Group member, Kate Middleton, responded: "Can you at least admit that your comparison to Hitler is flawed in many ways, including the penalty? You might at worst be fined $300, and probably will just be told to put a mask on. The kids partying will be sent home or spend a night at the Milton H . . . ."
No I won't. Do you believe the concentration camps were the first step in Hitler's mad plan? Of course not. He was a master manipulator who turned neighbor against neighbor. Just as those suggesting we do with those not wearing masks.
And not that it should have any bearing but for your information, I am of German Jewish decent. I feel very strongly about how a madman was able to manipulate an entire population into believing Jews were the problem. I feel equally so about people telling me what I can and cannot do or how I should feel. I believe Covid is serious. But I also believe it is being used to manipulate people. In this country, at least for now, I am entitled to my opinion and my right to vocalize that opinion.
Somebody dropped a dime on Foley to her bosses at MassHealth, who, after considering the situation, fired her, in part because she identified herself in her Facebook bio as a MassHealth training and communications director, and so she brought shame upon the agency.
The complaint, which does not note that, at least in Massachusetts, people who filed lawsuits over masks lost, then gets into her legal argument: That she was using her First Amendment rights to post on the Milton forum, that she did it on her own time, using her own computer and that MassHealth has no right to fire somebody for engaging in constitutionally protected speech, especially not without the sort of serious due process such a serious step should take.
She claims she was put on administrative leave on Dec. 21 and then fired on Jan. 27, without even being given a copy of the complaint against her.
Throughout the meeting, Tsai and Bryan refused to provide Foley a copy of the anonymous complaint concerning Foley's Facebook comments. Instead, Tsai took the position that because she listed on her Facebook profile that she worked at MassHealth, that her comments about masks could be taken as the agency's official position. Specifically he stated: "This is less about the post. You have been the Director of Training and Communications. It's about the discussions about masks. Because your position is listed on your Facebook profile, your words speak on behalf of this agency in the midst of the pandemic." He then noted: "those pieces are substantially at odds with what we are trying to accomplish across Health and Human Services in the pandemic response. The investigation triggers a review of things but is less around the specifics of the complaint and more around your capacity. Not engaging on the complaint."
In addition to her job back and monetary damages, Foley's suit also asks a judge to declare that what MassHealth did was wrong and that the supervisors who fired her "violated Foley’s federal and state due process rights."